Milan machine mart

29 August 2018

The Xylexpo woodworking technology fair in Milan during May was again a hot point of innovation. Stephen Powney reports from the show, held at the Rho Fairgrounds

Whether you are a producer of wood based panels, solid wood, timber buildings, furniture or joinery, the Xylexpo woodworking technology exhibition in Milan had something for everyone.

This year’s show came against a background of increasing demand for machinery, with machine producers reporting healthy sales as they respond to latest customer requirements.

Show organisers will have been delighted at the buzz this year and reported a 2.1% growth in visitor numbers.

The five-day event at the Rho Fairgrounds in May attracted 17,781 people, of which 5,032 came from abroad – 28.3% of total attendance.

The number of Italian visitors (12,749) was up by 3.3% from the previous edition, accounting for 71.7% of total attendance.

A fourth hall was added to the show, leading to an increased attendance of 425 exhibitors, covering 34,785m2, from 27 countries.

“With these figures we can say that Xylexpo has found its place in the more and more crowded, and sometimes messy, landscape of industry exhibitions,” commented Dario Corbetta, director of the exhibition.

“We have made a clear choice, namely to be a stage for high technology, and this approach has increased the participation of an even more select and qualified audience, with decision-making power and adequate expertise.”

Industry 4.0 (enhanced data flow) was a big theme with downstream processors, Biesse, Homag and SCM all presenting their solutions in this field.

Panel Technology

Automation equipment specialist Biele described Xylexpo 2018 as "good", compared to the previous show.

Commercial director Jesus Telleria said business was also currently good for the company, with the main goal among many customers to save materials.

He said the US, China and European markets were doing well.

Projects Biele is working on include a new plywood factory for Losan, with its equipment centering on the press and the dry side of production.

It is also supplying Abet Laminiti, which is increasing capacity. The project involves building a couple of new lay-up lines, a multidaylight press line and a forming line, for the company.

“We are currently building it and it should be in place by the end of year,” said Mr Telleria. Wood based panel production line supplier Siempelkamp had a strong presence at Xylexpo.

At its press conference it told journalists that it recorded sales of €720m in the wood sector in 2017 and saw a 20% increase in order value.

It shared recent project details from Russia, Lithuania, Turkey and Asia, but its main show focus was new technologies for the production of MDF and particleboard made of rice straw and other plant material. Alternative materials, it said, were growing in importance in view of the worldwide shortage of wood.

The latest Generation ContiRoll 9 and Generation 9 NEO enable fully automated and digitally controlled high-speed production of wood or rice straw fibreboards.

MDF can be produced in volumes of up to 0.9 million m3 per annum with a ContiRoll, featuring a production speed of 2,500mm/ sec. The NEO Blender has been developed as a wear-resistant and maintenance-friendly resin blender for abrasive rice straw and other plants, while the EcoFormer SL is a further development of the CMC Texpan wind dispersion concept employed in mat forming systems for particleboard production.

Siempelkamp also highlighted its EcoSifter, EcoScan and NEO EcoPulser technologies, the latter employing a new, non-cutting and virtually wear-free process for re-shredding wood chips and particles: Impact waves act on the bulk material, breaking up the material structure, allowing even highly-abrasive chip material to be processed with good results due to the noncontact process involved, as the chips are broken up in the air.

Meanwhile, IMAL-PAL unveiled its SMC100 technology for preparation of laboratory test samples, which IMAL’s Loris Zanassi said was attracting attention across wood based panel manufacturers.

The technology can sand, mark and cut lab samples, increasing safety by removing the risk of staff using hand tools to cut samples.

IMAL also says the SMC100 reduces operator costs and gives greater cutting accuracy and no risk of errors with an automatic barcode marker. It cuts and sands the samples on both surfaces at the same time.

Surfacing Technology

Surfacing technology supplier Hymmen had several innovations to present to visitors, including high-gloss technology in the double belt press sector, the Calander Coating Inert (CCI) and industrial digital printing.

A key exhibit was a digital printing system for up to 3mm-thick edgebanding material, while Digital Lacquer Embossing is Hymmen’s response to a customer need for the look and feel of a surface to match. Cefla’s stand featured a functioning J-Print digital printing line, which achieves an embossed effect on all material, with a high definition finish. Technology called myTexture, developed by Cefla and Kuei, makes this possible.

Cefla also had an iBotic spray robot for painting different shapes and thicknesses, while in the field of Industry 4.0, its Cloner simulates complex production lines, offering the operator a realistic and dynamic 3-D view of the process before the production line is started up.

Finishing technology specialist Giardina Group had new machine drying technology using nitrogen. The Excimer’s use of nitrogen in the drying process means you can use a gloss paint on a panel to get a matt finish without changing to a matt paint, thus saving time in production.

Another finishing specialist, Makor, has a 50th anniversary this year, which it will celebrate in September with the opening of a new test lab at its Tuscany facility. New technology included a new UV putty line in its profile finish line, designed to give a high repair efficiency at minimum cost. The equipment repairs defects to ensure good finishing results.

Its coated flooring technology has also been updated for engineered or solid wood floors and a new system has been launched for edge-sealing of MDF.

Downstream Processing

For Italian woodworking machinery manufacturer SCM Group, Xylexpo was the “crowning achievement of an outstanding year”.

SCM director Luigi De Vito said sales were now close to €700m, with the company also receiving three innovation awards at the show.

A strong upward trend was recorded in orders, negotiations and contacts, involving about 500 customers at the 3,000m2 stand (half of them Italian, with a majority of Russian and French international customers), for an expected turnover of at least €30m.

Increasingly customised integrated high technology was a big focus for SCM, with “work simple, work digital” an underlying concept.

A main draw for visitors was Maestro Smartech, which can supply technical assistance through remote connection and direct interaction between end users and expert technicians back at the manufacturer's headquarters. ‘Smart glasses’ can be used by operators.

Fellow downstream Italian machinery giant Biesse record €21.6m in orders at the show, with the group’s order portfolio now reaching a value of €234m – the highest in the group’s history.

The 3,000m2 Biesse stand attracted global visitors, with significant Italian presence. Biesse focused on automation and on the digitalisation of the factory, with four Industry 4-automated solutions present on the stand – solutions capable of increasing efficiency and continuity in production, simplifying daily tasks.

The implementation of the SOPHIA service platform, presented at Xylexpo as a solution for the digitalised factory, was also a big draw.

“Two years ago we were talking about Industry 4.0,” said Federico Broccoli, Biesse Wood Division director/sales - subsidiaries division director.

“Today we are talking about Industry 4.0 delivered.”

Biesse presented different integrated processes with 4 robots on display. These solutions included a Rover A with robot designed for automatic loading and unloading of panels, enabling the cell to work in total autonomy. This was flanked by the Stream MDS with Robot for unloading the processed panels and moving them on to the subsequent production processes.

Mr Broccoli said integrated solutions would reach about 30% of Biesse’s turnover.

“There is a big move worldwide towards the smart factory. I see more and more investors at this show talking about efficiency.”

Giardina Finishing’s drying innovation turns a gloss finish into a matt one
Xylexpo attracted 425 exhibitors to the Rho Fairgrounds, Milan
IMAL-PAL had new technology for producing lab test samples
Biele reported good business from various world regions