IWF Challengers Award: Celebrating 46 Years of Woodworking The Distinguished Challengers Award competition has long been a staple of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest woodworking event.

Since its inception in 1966, the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) has recognized industry innovation through the unique Distinguished Challengers Award awards program.

Initially called the “Challenge to Change” awards, the biennial awards program honoring progressive product pioneers, was renamed the Challengers Awards in 1970. Over the 23 editions of IWF held to date, 156 awards have been doled out for products entered by exhibitors from all over the world. The next class of seven Challengers Award winners will be announced at IWF 2012, August 22-25, at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

At IWF 2012, Michael Weinig will shoot for its eighth Challengers Award. Weinig already holds a record seven Challengers Awards, winning its first in 1968 and latest in 2006. Weinig can claim for its trophy case at least five more of the Challengers Award statues — designed by renowned sculptor Carol Marks — when its acquisitions of previous recipients Dimter (a two-time winner), Grecon, Holz-Her and Raimann are factored into the equation.

Stiles Machinery, which has piled up five Challengers Awards to date, has a pair of products among the 20 finalists in this year’s competition. Barr-Mullin, no longer in business, ranks third, holding claim to four Challengers Awards, its last coming at IWF 1994.

Building Excitement . . .and Our Future

The National Association of Furniture Manufacturers (NAFM) organized the first IWF in Louisville in 1966. In addition to having approximately 250,000 square feet of machinery and supply displays, the inaugural IWF featured a scale model of the Furniture Factory of the Future and the Challenge to Change Awards.

In announcing the Challenge to Change award winners at IWF 1966, NAFM board member Richard Burrow, a VP merchandising for Kroehler Mfg. Co., said, “Furniture manufacturers and retailers — all should accept the ‘Challenge to Change’ as we move forward into the future. Together we can create the excitement … in materials and machinery, in product design, in service and in quality … which will build our market and our future.”

Forty-two years later, Charles (Tommy) Tomkins, IWF 2008 chairman and president of Crescent Fine Furniture Co., noted the record 126 Challengers Award entrants that year and discussed the importance of the Challengers Awards, not only for recognizing achievements in innovation but helping foster the development of new Challengers Award-worthy products.

“Throughout manufacturing history, innovation is the key ingredient to continued success in our business,” Tomkins said. “IWF exhibitors are answering the call to provide solutions that address the woodworking industry’s manufacturing challenges. The record number of entries from companies all over the globe is a great indicator of great things to come for our industry, now and in the future. Our IWF buyers will be looking for new ways to improve their businesses and they recognize that the products they see at IWF and the Challengers Award entries are keys to their success.”

Wood Technology Development Timeline

Reviewing the list of past Challengers Award winners is like looking at a timeline of woodworking technology evolution. Over the years the Challengers Award judges, typically representing wood products manufacturing companies, have recognized innovative technology as well as significant contributions to environmental and safety improvement in woodworking, machinery, supplies and service.

Following are just a few notable examples culled from the complete list of Challengers Award winners.

1966: Among the six winners of the first Challenge to Change awards was a tapecontrolled router made by Ekstrom Carlson, an early precursor of today’s CNC machining technology.

1968: A Schwabedissen panel sizing system hints at the European panel processing technology to come.

1972: George Koch Sons’ UV curing system for wood finishes helps drive development of UV finishing technology and coatings.

1976: Thermwood’s Cartesian 5-axis CNC router was credited as the first CNC router for woodworking.

1978: Moldow Dust Control won a Challengers Award for the Flamex spark detection and extinguishment system, a technology that has helped prevent many wood dust-related explosions and fires over the decades.

1986: Homag’s Homatic control system for panel saws and edgebanders allowed woodworkers to pull part programs from a software library, saving companies time and money.

1990: Dimter’s Optimax lumber scanner was the first of many automated wood defect detection systems to win Challengers Awards.

1990: Wemhoner’s 3-D membrane press literally opened the door for using MDF as a cost-effective alternative for five-piece solid wood doors.

2000: The SawStop flesh-sensing technology, now being reviewed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as the basis for a potential new table saw safety rule, won a Challengers Award.

2006: Biesse’s Skipper machining center eliminates set-up time in switching from one part format to another when machining single panels, two identical panels or two mirrored panels.

2010: King Slide’s push open soft close undermount slide brings Challengers Award recognition to a whole new category of cabinet hardware that started years before in Europe.

Challengers Award Winners through the Years

1966 Apex Sewing Machine - Cushion boxing and zipper closing machine R.S. Brookman - Automatic drawer assembly system E.R. Carpenter - High-density urethane foam Ekstrom Carlson - Tape-controlled router C.O. Porter Machinery - Router Roberts Consolidated - Wrap-around veneer Southern Railway - Furniture transportation

1968 AMG Versatran - Programmable robot E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. - Teflon 5 saw blade coating F. Meyer & Schwabedissen – Panel sizing Verein Deutscher Maschinenbau (VDMA) - Automated veneering line Michael Weinig - Automatic moulder Heinrich Wemhoner - Automated stacking machine Zuckermann Maschinenfabrik - Automated transfer machine

1970 The East Asiatic Co. - Modular dust extraction system Industrial Woodworking Machine - Gang ripsaw Mobay Chemical - Flexible urethane foam Oliver Machinery - Insert carbide tooth cutterhead Rees-Memphis - Pollution control The Singer Co. - Integrated sewing system Southern Abrasives - Laborsaving production system

1972 Apex Sewing Machine - Upholstery gathering machine Ashdee Div. George Koch Sons - UV curing system for wood finishes Clipper Abrasives - Sanding/ shaping wheel Fletcher-Torbert Machine - Mold sander Fukami Co. - Automatic coping bandsaw ISM Corp. - Composite resin Oliver Machinery - Computerized cut-off saw

1974 Apex Sewing Machine - Button machine Automated Building Components – Wood welder system Greenlee Bros. - NC-controlled double-end tenoner Newman Machine - QuietCut cutterhead TRW Divisions-United Carr & Nelson - T-nut fastening system Zuckermann - Eight-spindle copying machine

1976 Camsco - Waterjet cutter DeVilbiss - Robotic finishing Evans Div. Royal Ind. - Multiple ripsaw Gerber Garment Technology - NC-controlled knife cutter Thermwood - Cartesian 5-axis CNC router Michael Weinig - Rondamat cutterhead sharpening system

1978 BJK Ind. - Upholstery cushion filling machine Conway-Cleveland - Tallymaster lumber measurement system Moldow Dust Control - Flamex spark detection/extinguishment system C.R. Onsrud - Intri-Shaper spiral cutting tool Michael Weinig - Knife profiling machine Wesflex - Automatic cutting/ edging/shaping machine

1980 Abrasive Engineering & Mfg. - Abrasive planer C.R. Onsrud - Inverted pin router Small Wonder - Dust control technology Thermal Engineering – Finishing oven Thermwood - Finishing robotic arm Wadkin - Router/moulder

1982 Barr Mullin - Compu-Gauge Bisemeyer Mfg. - T-square saw fence Campbell Automation – Computer-aided programming Linder Intl - Sandomatic Michael Weinig - Constant Tool System Wilhelm Grupp - Copy, shaper and sand machine

1984 Abrasive Belt Master - Widebelt cleaning system Adler American - High-speed sewing machine Gerber Garment Technology - Computerized fabric cutter Martin Mechanic - Upholstery automation machine Newman-Whitney - Automated double planer Zuckermann - CNC machining center

1986 Barr-Mullin - Compu-Rip optimizing system Homag - Homatic electronic control system Mereen-Johnson Machine - Select-A-Rip saw Paolino Bacci - Hopper fed double-end tenoner Simpson Products - Pro-Kleen widebelt abrasive belt cleaner James L.Taylor Mfg. - Automated clamp carrier

1988 Buss Automation - Accu-Feed automated lumber feeding system Dimter Harbs - Moulder with automatic tool changing Onsrud Cutter - Solid ceramic router bit Reinhold Hess - Cabinet door press James L. Taylor Mfg. - Optisizer Voorwood Co. - Turbosand profile sanding unit Weyerhaeuser - Heartwood engineered lumber

1990 Biesse America - Crossmatic crosscutting machine Dimter - Optimax lumber scanner DML - Golden Eagle saw blades Forcam - Automated fabric cutting system GPM Technologies - Digipro 3-D software Michael Weinig - Rondamat tool grinder Wemhoner America - 3-D membrane press

1992 Barr-Mullin - Wonder Saw Biesse America - Selco WNA panel saw Karl Heesemann - CSD pressure bar sanding system Hymmen - Multi-coater curtain coater Modulus 2000 Machinery - Scoring unit for 10-inch table saws Swift Adhesives - Reducedsolvent adhesive Timesavers - High-efficiency dust hood

1994 Abrasive Cleaning Systems - Zintexx dry abrasive cleaning system Barr-Mullin - Cell Scan wood defect inspection system Carter Products - Flip-Pod vacuum hold-down system Grecon - Superscan Color wood inspection system Newman Machine - Servo Sleeve for gang ripsaws Ogden Enterprises - Rotoles rotary milling machine Onsrud Cutter - Solid carbide spiral router bit

1996 Great Lakes Carbide Tool - Great-Loc insert tooling Group Seven Systems - CESYS lumber color evaluation system ITW DeVilbiss - OMX ergonomic spray gun Norton - Seeded-gel ceramic abrasive grain technology Homag/Stiles Machinery - Edge filling machine Voorwood - Contour foiler drive system Western Cutterheads - Hydrosleeve rotary lathe tooling

1998 Cabinet Vision - Solid Professional software IMA Machinenfabriken - Conform feed-through contour edgebander Mirka Abrasives - Abralon sanding disks Morton Intl - Lamineer powder coatings for wood Resource Recycling - Reusable spray booth filters Stiles Machinery/Altendorf America - Tip-Servo-Drive Wemhoner - Vario pin support system

2000 Giben America - PM panel sizing system IMA America - MAWNottmeyer feed-through CNC drilling Koch Ltd. - Pade 5-axis CNC double-end tenoner Raimann USA - Optimizing ripsaw with Hydro Arbor SawStop - SawStop table saw safety system Southeastern Adhesives - Protact laminating adhesive Michael Weinig - Unimat 3000 Brilliant moulder

2002 Copemaster, div. of Shaw Millwork - Coping machine CryoKinetics, div. of the L.A.W. Group - Automated abrasive belt cleaning Gladu Tools - ProcentriX tool clamping and positioning Infinite Reverse Profiling - Infinitely adjustable hold-down shoe James L. Taylor - Opti-Match wood color sorting system Stiles Machinery/Kuper - ACR SPEEDStar veneer splicer Stiles Machinery/Heian - Heian UR-631P-1631FX stack router

2004 Accu-Systems - Single-sided CNC machine miter Binks, DeVilbiss, Ransburg / ITW Industrial Finishing - VTX Spray Gun FastCap - FlipBolt Giardina Finishing Systems USA - Microwave Oven finishing system Mereen-Johnson Machine - CamLock system Vortex Tool - Diamondback router bit Wood Technology - Evolve clip-on hinge

2006 Biesse America - Skipper CNC machining center Dubois Equipment - 3-D UV finishing oven ETemplate Systems - Digital measuring system Holz-Her U.S. - Kundig Brilliant sanding unit Navy Island Plywood - Wood veneer grading standards system Stiles/Climate Technologies - Fumes-to-Fuel VOC abatement Michael Weinig - Valu-Vision gang ripsaw optimizing

2008 Dux Area - DUX Advanced Laminar Airflow Technology DV-Systems /Delle Vedove USA - UV-X finishing system FS Tool Corp./FS Cruing - Aerotech nesting tool system Giben - Zero Active Drive beam saw NAP Gladu - Next G Series diamond & carbide inserts Super Thin Saws - UltraCemcoated blades WoodEye/Innovative Vision - Automatic NHLA hardwood grading

2010 Benz - Reciprocating knife cutter Binks, DeVilbiss / ITW Industrial Finishing - Binks MX Pump Cabinotch – Cabinet assembly system ETP Transmission - ETP CUBIT King Slide Works - Push open silent soft-close undermount slide Leitz Tooling Systems - RipTec cutting system Precision Drive Systems - Dyna-Loc ATC spindle

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.