Stronger Together

21 December 2018


With a long history in wood-size-reduction machinery, Pallmann is now a wholly-owned company within the Siempelkamp group. Mike Botting visited Pallmann’s Zweibrücken HQ to seek the latest news about its machinery

The Pallmann company was founded in 1903 as a flour miller and mill designer. Today it is a global company offering sizereduction machinery for any soft to hard, brittle to viscoplastic, and fibrous products, to companies in the wood, plastics, recycling and processing sectors.

In the panel industry, it's famous for its range of chippers, flakers, other sizereduction machinery and, of course, refiners for the MDF industry.

In fact, Pallmann points out that it is the only company in its market able to supply its kind of machinery to the particleboard, OSB and MDF markets.

In April 2014, major machinery maker Siempelkamp bought a 25% stake in Pallmann, which was increased step-by-step until, in April 2017, it bought the final 25%, making Pallmann a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Siempelkamp group.

This was perhaps the ‘last piece of the jigsaw’ in Siempelkamp’s long-term journey to becoming a complete line supplier, entirely from its own resources, to the panel making industry.

Stefan Wissing is managing director of Pallmann and a long-serving employee of the Siempelkamp group. He is also managing director of the parent company’s Logistics and Service division based in Bad Kreuznach. He was a director of Siempelkamp North America from 2004-8.

“Pallmann has had its financial difficulties in the past, but is set to make a good profit in 2018, for the first time in years,” said Mr Wissing. “We have one of the largest R&D centres for size-reduction worldwide, where we have 60 different machines installed for [research] testing.”

Pallmann has always had a global presence in the panel industry, but Mr Wissing pointed out one of the advantages of being in the Siempelkamp group: “Siempelkamp has a big network worldwide – bigger than Pallmann’s – and now we can use this to our advantage. We can also use the engineering and manufacturing facilities of the group, for example in the Czech Republic, China and Italy [CMC Texpan]”.

Pallmann is active in several industrial sectors, with the wood industry being the largest. Second comes plastics and then there is the food industry (both animal and human), in which stainless steel has to be used in the construction of the size-reduction machines, for obvious sanitary reasons.

Recycling is the youngest business unit in the company, where it offers several specialist machines to grind to very specific characteristics, such as the recycling of tyres.

For the wood industry, Pallmann offers the PZ range of knife ring flakers, which feature the counter-rotating knife ring.

Re-grinding the knifes of these flakers has, for years, been a pain to the panel maker. It involves removing the knives, grinding them, replacing them in the flaker knife ring and then setting the protrusion and alignment. Not any more.

Pallmann offers its grinding robot. This grinds the knives in situ in the ring in a grinding machine and sets the correct knife protrusion. The machine automatically sets the correct protrusion before grinding and then grinds to that protrusion amount. The wear shoe, in reference to the knife tip, can also be ground in the automatic grinding robot.

“Big particleboard plants may have four to six knife ring flakers and it is economically sensible to have one of our robotised grinding machines,” said Mr Wissing.

In a modern, large, particleboard plant, after debarking with a Pallmann debarker, the Hammer Mill, series PHMS, can be used for the preparation of wood chips from round wood, residual wood, waste wood or annual plants.

There is also the drum chipper, type PHT, to convert long and short round wood, slabs, sawmill waste, veneer waste, board trimmings, and various waste wood, into wood chips. Annual plants such as cotton stalks or bamboo can also be processed.

You could then have a number of Pallmann PZKR flakers for the core, with microand macro-screening supplied by sister Siempelkamp company CMC, in Italy.

In combination with that pre-cutting of the logs by drum or disc chippers, as well as feeding and washing systems, this results in a complete package for the efficient production of the required raw materials for any panel, said Mr Wissing.

For the surface layer of particleboard, you could have PSKM double-stream mills, which are used to grind core layer flakes (or course material rejects from the screening process) to fine surface layer flakes.

For OSB production, Pallmann offers a log pond (required in freezing conditions), then the debarker Type PRD rotor debarker, or the PDD drum debarker follows the soaking and the PZU direct flaker produces the strands for the OSB panel.

Mr Wissing said the PZU 25-850 is the world’s largest strander and that, due to the design of its knife ring – with a 2,500mm diameter, a cutting width of 850mm, 56 knives, and a maximum material throughput of 45 tonnes per hour bone dry (tphbd) – the PZU series is able to process logs to strands with a specific length, width, and thickness.

“We have just delivered a new ring strander/flaker system to China and we also have a big project underway in Russia,” said Mr Wissing. “Our workshop is very full with orders, going out to March/April 2019.”

For MDF production, obviously the debarker, chippers, chip washing and so on are much the same as for particleboard.

However, that leaves one of the most important components of an MDF/ fibreboard line unmentioned: The refiner.

Pallmann offers its ‘Type PR’ Refiner. These machines have the biggest motors and thus the process consumes the most specific energy/tonne compared to the machines used in OSB or particleboard production. However, Pallmann claims that its PR refiner has minimal energy input.

“In the last two years, we have sold six refiners, mostly through Siempelkamp,” said Mr Wissing. “Two went to the Middle East; two to CalAg in California for its rice straw plant; one to Yildiz Entegre for its Romanian factory; and one to Swiss Krono’s MDF factory in Barnwell, South Carolina.”

The CalAg plant is perhaps particularly interesting, as it will employ rice straw to make MDF rather than particleboard, as is more common with this raw material.

The Swiss Krono line in South Carolina is a complete-supply project for Siempelkamp. Pallmann obviously supplied the full range of its machines, while CMC supplied the screening and fibre bunkers and Büttner the dryers and energy plant. Ventapp, another subsidiary of parent Siempelkamp, supplied the fibre sifter and of course Siempelkamp supplied its ContiRoll continuous press – a 10ft-wide model.

Thus this plant ideally illustrates the ‘everything from one source’ objective of the Siempelkamp group of companies.

Between them, Pallmann and Siempelkamp won four out of the five recent contracts in North America (Arauco Grayling, Swiss Krono Barnwell, CalAg California, Kronospan Alabama and Egger Linwood), though not necessarily each from the same mills.

It is perhaps interesting to note, however, that Mr Wissing said that only 15% of Pallmann’s turnover comes from its parent: the vast majority comes directly from panel manufacturers. Refurbishment of older machines is also part of the Pallmann offering.

Pallmann employs five apprentices, on three-year courses, in its factory, thus helping to ensure its future supply of skilled workers.

A tour of the factory soon showed that Pallmann makes all the components of its products inhouse.

“All the machines we make are 100% tested here. They are assembled and run for several hours each,” said Mr Wissing.

The Pallmann company has had a long history – and not always a smooth one – during the Pallmann family’s ownership.

However, under the guiding hands of Siempelkamp, and Stefan Wissing, it appears to have turned the corner onto a smoother and more successful road.

Grinding robot for a knife ring flaker
Pallmann's headquarters
Two PZKR knife ring flakers in Pallmann's Zweibrücken factory
A refiner plant in Turkey