Against a backdrop of Industry 4.0, “Ligna 2017 will go down as a milestone in the digitalization of the wood industry,” said Dr. Andreas Gruchow, managing board member of Deutsche Messe, organizer of the woodworking industry’s largest trade show in the world.

Held May 22-26 in Hannover, Germany, the biennial show drew 93,000 visitors, including an estimated 42,000 attendees from outside the host country. More than 1,500 exhibitors, including 900 from abroad, showcased a range of innovative machinery, tools and products, with displays spanning almost 1.4 million square feet of net space.

Ligna 2017 featured a revamped, thematic layout, including two new display categories: Surface Technology and Machine Components and Automation Technology, which highlighted the theme of Industry 4.0: the networking of machines and automation to improve efficiency.

“Digitalization and integrated production are the new keys to success for our customers,” said Wolfgang Pöschl, chairman, Woodworking Machinery division of Germany’s Mechanical Engineering Industry Assn., a show sponsor, and board chairman of Michael Weinig AG. “There is huge demand across the board, resulting in full order books. The challenge now is to shorten delivery lead times as much as possible.”

Catering to the wide range and skill levels of the attendees, exhibits ranged from high-tech, sophisticated machinery to entry-level systems for use by those in the furniture, cabinet, architectural woodworking, casegoods and closets industries. Solutions shown included: service apps for machine monitoring, to the first professional table saw using SawStop safety technology, dual glue technology on a contour edgebander, sanding and finishing innovations, a moulder that produces lineal shapes and designs in a single step, robots, a “three-click” process for producing a complete item of furniture, and of course, Batch 1 systems incorporating CNC technology. What follows is a look at some of the highlights.

More highlights are online at WoodworkingNetwork.com. The next Ligna will take place May 27-31, 2019 in Hannover, Germany. For additional information visit Ligna.de.

Homag goes digital: Homag set the stage at Ligna with its world premier of  “tapio,” its open interface, digital platform for the wood industry.  Tapio covers the entire production process, with users able to monitor the status of their machines in real time, retrieve data, run reports, access saved programs from the cloud, and even operate the machines remotely.

Homag also displayed its range of products for CNC processing, zero-joint edgebanding technology, solid wood processing, surface technologies and batch size one production.  Among the new products, the intelliGuide system for panel saws uses LED lighting and lasers to communicate part positioning to the operator prior to sawing. Homag is distributed in the United States by Stiles Machinery.

Weinig gains power: There’s a lot new at Weinig. Making its debut, the successor to the Powermat 2400 is a 3D version designed for industrial bead production at feed speeds up to 100 mpm, and capable of producing freely programmable structured surfaces during throughfeed, as well as conical or curved contours on workpieces.

Also new, the OptiCut 450 Quantum optimizing crosscut saw is the fastest of its kind in the world, according to Weinig. It features the VarioStroke automatic adjustment aid and OptiStat, a new tool for evaluating production data.

Holz-Her shows what’s next: Holz-Her displayed NEXTEC, a gantry-style CNC router with one-button production. It allows you to create any piece of custom furniture by simply adapting dimensions and quantities. NEXTEC writes the required nesting programs for formatting, drilling and grooving. The company says NEXTEC is also available with automation components for even high production performance.

Holz-Her also showed off its new Accura and Lumina edgebanders, now equipped with the Glu Jet PUR 2K for use with 2 kg PUR glue sticks on the newly-developed changing station.

Biesse shows its flexibility: The interconnected layout of machines in Biesse’s stand demonstrated the Industry 4.0 concept, while highlighting the company’s offerings for routing, edgebanding, nesting, boring and insertion, with more than 40 machines on display.

Among the machines drawing interest was the Winner panel loading and unloading system for square-edging and boring lines, which is increasingly being used on sectioning and flexible edgebanding lines as well. The Winner W1 was paired with the Stream B MDS squaring and edgebanding machine. The Winner W4 was also shown with the Selco WN 6 panel saw and the X-Feeder.

SCM’s master suite: Hot at SCM’s stand was the “Cell Lean 4.0,” a flexible cell combining Industry 4.0, lean manufacturing and mass customization. Managed by Maestro Watch software and supported by an anthropomorphic robot with a piece recognition viewer, the system can operate automatically, from the moment the order is launched. The company presented the new Maestro Suite software at Ligna.  

Also shown were the Morbidelli M100 and M200 “all-in-one” centers with five-axis spindle heads, up to four machining units and 14-position tool changers.  New too, was the Morbidelli p200 CNC boring, routing & edgebander capable of profiling minimal radii.

Cefla’s finishing solutions: Cefla was among many with innovations for painting, drying, and 3D digital printing. The award-winning iGiotto App X2 finishing system features robots that can operate in an autonomous manner, following optimized trajectories and without hindering the movement of one another, or in a synchronous fashion.

For digital printing, Cefla demonstrated the J-PRINT SP1300-3D, which can make a synchronized print with the tactile.

Griggio Unica Safe: Ever since SawStop did its first hot dog demonstration of flesh-sensing saw safety technology, there’s been a lot of interest in the industry. And once SawStop started manufacturing its own saws with the patented safety system, they sold well to consumers and small- to medium-size shops. But many have been waiting for a truly professional grade saw to incorporate the system. Now Griggio has answered that call.

Taking center stage in Griggio’s booth at Ligna was the Unica Safe, a full-size sliding table saw complete with scoring blade. Both blades feature a flesh-sensing safety system licensed from SawStop. However, the Griggio version uses gas cartridges instead of springs to instantly drop the blades in the event of flesh contact. Griggio’s system does not damage the blade and can be immediately reset to put the saw back in business.

Griggio says it is still waiting on the final sign-off from SawStop, but it expects the Unica Safe to be available from U.S. distributors later in 2017.

Ceratizit carbide innovations: Few woodworkers dwell on the intricacies of carbide, even though it’s a crucial element to most of the machine-driven cutting tools they use. One major player in tooling carbide on the world scene announced at Ligna that it would launch a new push to broaden its market in North America.

Ceratizit, headquartered in Luxembourg, currently reports only 10 percent of its sales in the U.S. but it intends to boost that with a number of innovative products announced in a press conference at Ligna.

CeraShield is a combined coating and grinding process that minimizes wear on carbide tooling that the company says can extend tooling life by a factor of 10. Ceratizit also highlighted its KCR18+ carbide for saw tips, knives and rectangular strips. The carbide formula has an improved ratio of hardness to fracture toughness, the company says.

Festool drywall light: Festool is known for its professional grade power tools that have attracted a dedicated following in Europe and North America. At Ligna, Festool had enough visitor interest to keep two full booths busy. One booth was inside, showcasing new products with benchtop demos, and the other booth was outside, connected to one of the company’s big semi-truck rolling showrooms.

Unfortunately for North American Festool fans, some of the company’s most creative products have experienced major hurdles to be approved for the U.S. market. For example, a very popular option in Europe is a table that allows you to mount a Festool saw upside down to make a great portable job site table saw, but don’t expect to see that in the U.S.

A great new product for interior work is a drywall inspection light offering side illumination to highlight surface flaws when sanding. This could have wider applications in woodworking once it makes across the Atlantic. Some construction tools previously introduced in the U.S. like the track-mounted circular saw, were very popular with the Ligna crowd.

IMA Schelling on display: The merger of IMA and Schelling was on display in very tangible fashion at Ligna with the unveiling of a high-production machine that combines technology from both operations. The Combi.cut1 looks initially like a big beam saw, and it is intended for cutting panels, but this machine is designed to do more without additional material handling.

The Combi.cut1 combines Schelling’s fast sawing technology for fast rip cuts in panels with the flexible IMA milling technology for cross-cutting strips from the panels. The idea combines multiple operations and nesting for panel optimization while reducing parts handling. An outfeed system takes cut strips from the rip saw and carries them by conveyor to a cross-cut station. In the milling station equipped with five spindles, strips are positioned and machined according to individual cutting plans. Offcuts and sawdust fall through a waste flap on the saw to be automatically removed.

Vecoplan Live Service: Technology isn’t just affecting the productivity of machines, it’s also driving maintenance. One example of this at Ligna was Vecoplan’s Live Service system. This technology equips Vecoplan machinery customers with special glasses based on Google Glasses. Using the glasses, the customer can directly connect to Vecoplan technicians to help troubleshoot and service their machines.

It’s part of the Industry 4.0 initiative that makes better use of Internet connectivity for a variety of ways to improve machine productivity.

In this case, users can send their queries to Vecoplan with a simple click and receive immediate support from service engineers – anywhere in the world. Maintenance engineers also can access the controller or the control panel and analyze, identify and eliminate errors in real time. Live images from the data glasses transmit in real time to help service personnel resolve complex technical issues by chat or conference technology in real time. That helps reduce downtime, the company says.

William Sampson also contributed to this report.