First three laser edgebanders sold in U.S.DEPAUW, IN

- Fred Smith Store Fixtures is the first U.S. wood products firm to purchase a laser edgebander. The 95-employee wood components manufacturer, based in DePauw, IN, will take delivery on the laserTec edgebanding system outfitted on a Homag edgebander in August.

The laserTec system, which fits onto a Homag profiLine edgebander, uses a 3,000-watt diode laser system to melt a glue layer on specially coated edgeband material, eliminating gluepots. Homag announced a patent for the system in February 2010. Stiles made the first U.S. demonstration last fall, using  Rehau LaserEdge edgeband material, also patented.

First three laser edgebanders sold in U.S.Laser edgebanders are available from other manufacturers, including Biesse, IMA and SCM, which carries the Stefani brand. And Doellken-Woodtape also offers a compatible laser-activated edgeband, called Fusion Edge. Laser edgebanding, which provides a seamless edge with no visible glue line, has gained acceptance in Europe, where more than 50 have been installed, according to Stiles.

Fred Smith Store Fixtures will take delivery on its laserTec after it is shown by distributor Stiles Machinery at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas in July. Stiles, which says it has sold two other laser edgebanders to an office furnishings manufacturer, will also stage an exhibit on the technology at  NeoCon business furnishings trade show in Chicago in June.

 First three laser edgebanders sold in U.S.
 Fred Smith Store Fixtures plant, DePauw, IN.

Founded in 1963, Fred Smith Store Fixtures specializes in the manufacture of wood component parts for the office furniture, hospitality, and store fixtures industries.

"We're hoping this will open doors and get our name out in some new areas," says company president Steve Smith.  He plans on outsourcing supply of the precoated edgebanding material, at least at first.

"We're going to buy the laser banding from Europe, all polypropylene," says Smith. He is considering adding a second device that coats a laser receptive glue coating on the edgebanding, allowing conversion of standard edgebanding into the laser-weldable variety. But first Smith will gauge market reaction.

Smith expects the seamless qualities of the laser edgebanding will hold appeal in several markets.

"Health care makes sense, since the seamless glueless line won't harbor bacteria," he says. "Office furniture companies that use powder coating would be candidates, especially since industry likes the seamless look."

Smith says his firm has operated on a rather low key basis, as a back end to major name brands. "We work under the radar," he says. But being a first U.S. adopter of laser edgebanding could change that.

"It's really going to be market driven," he says of the edgebander. "It's a great looking product."

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