ATLANTA -- Though the 2010
International Woodworking Fair was smaller and attendance lighter - a reflection of stressed wood products markets in housing, home furnishings, case goods and architectural projects -  most exhibitors expressed satisfaction with their show sales and the quality of business leads generated. The biennial IWF 2010 ended its four-day run in Atlanta Saturday.

Advances in wood manufacturing technology clearly played the starring role at the show, with several surprise appearances of new software and even some new
technology in wood processing itself. On the environmental front,  lumber and forest products sourcing continued to gain ground whenever suppliers could demonstrate chain-of-custody certification and formaldehyde-free manufacture, rules that sometimes work to the advantage of domestic suppliers.

Woodworkers are used to seeing advances in machinery -  5-axis CNC routers appended to articulated arms, coating lines programmed to avoid overspray, materials-handling robots feeding band saws, and such developments as  laser imaging and engraving.

But this time new technologies in wood sourcing and processing were also on display, including thermally processed wood treated in high temperature kilns as both an environmentally friendly measure for preservation, and to impart new performance characteristics into the wood. Another environmentally friendly approach to wood preservation was demonstrated by Accoya Wood. Manufactured by Accsys Technologies, Accoya wood is processed using acetylation treatment, which alters the wood’s reaction with water by replacing molecules  within the wood with stable acetyl groups that will not bond with water.

Some surprises on the software side included the debut of InControl Software, LLC, launched by cabinet industry software legends Roger Taylor and Larry Cornwell. The company's InControl application allows users to run machine-ready G-code from most popular cad/cam systems. It also features an optimal nesting engine by Mozaik, said to be fully integrated and designed to be used at the machine, eliminating the need to run back and forth between the office and the CNC machines.

Another software debut is Intooligence, an initiative by Riverside Tools, which uses barcodes to help inventory and track usage and performance of woodworking cutting tools. Barcodes are etched into blades and bits, then read by a scanner to enter their usage history (and whereabouts) in woodworking plants. Riverside Tools president Ron Migedt says he plans to establish Intooligence as a separate operating business by January, and anticipates tooling manufactures adopting it as an industry-wide woodworking cutting tool and blade inventory management standard. So far Tigra has agreed to adopt it, says Migedt.

Establishing process management
A recurrent theme at IWF was the need for woodworking businesses to establish adopt more efficient process manufacturing at their firms, with adoption of enabling software applications a necessity.

Automated CNC cutting machinery can be readily integrated into comprehensive business management systems (known as "Enterprise Resource Planning" - ERP, or "Enterprise Resource Management" or ERM systems). These allow capture of front office orders and designs to be fed directly to production equipment. But  vendors of software systems at IWF express some concern that woodworking businesses have yet to rationalize the basics of their materials handling and production workflow. In some cases, this limits woodworking firms from being able to make use of the newest software and to integrate it into manufacturing processes.

Addressing this issue was a Wednesday gathering of the Solutions Alliance, a consortium of suppliers of woodworking machinery, materials handling equipment and software applications. Sponsoring firms - IMA Leading Technologies, Dakota Automation, Schelling, EuroSoft and Koch Machinery + Systems - say they have established a framework for integrating their wood industry software, materials handling and manufacturing systems so they are ready to quickly implement integrated offerings when called upon by wood industry manufacturing firms.

Recap of IWF 2010 figures
Preliminary figures indicated that nearly 11,000 woodworking professionals attended the four-day exhibition, this in addition to thousands of exhibit personnel manning the more than 950 display booths occupying two of the Georgia World Congress Center's massive trade halls. While both attendance and number of exhibits were substantially lower than the last IWF in 2008 (when nearly 19,000 attendees visited 1,324 exhibits), most exhibitors at IWF 2010 told Woodworking Network they were satisfied with the show.

Patrick LaFramboise, IWF president and CEO, said, "IWF 2010 has been a very good show, relatively speaking."

LaFramboise says it's too early to talk about the 2012 edition of IWF. "Right now I am only thinking until five o'clock tonight," he said, noting it will be days before the move-out of many of the largest wood manufacturing machinery systems are disassembled, crated and shipped - sometimes to buyers.

In coming weeks, the final, formal tallies of attendee demographics, daily traffic and lead generation data will be analyzed by the show organization, exhibitors, and the IWF board. (IWF is owned and operated by the American Home Furnishings Alliance, the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, and the Woodworking Machinery Industry Assn.) This data will guide plans for the 2012 IWF show. Meanwhile, the next year's large North American shows for woodworking technology will be the AWFS Fair, July 20-23, 2011 in Las Vegas, and the Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Expo, Sept. 29-Oct. 11 in Toronto. (The Toronto show is owned by Vance Publishing, parent of Woodworking Network.)

Exhibitor Feedback
Tim Peters of CompX Timberline said he was very satisfied with the quality and quantity of sales leads his company generated at its booth. "Leads have picked up over the past couple of major woodworking shows we have shown at," Peters said. "We're please with quality of leads and the response to our new Stealth product line at IWF."

Read continuing news and coverage of IWF 2010>>

 Watch video footage of IWF 2010 show scenes

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