Held in Beijing in even years, the WMF show for woodworking machinery and furniture manufacturing equipment, running concurrently with the furniture accessories, materials and wood products exhibition, is considered by many to be China’s ‘Ligna exhibition’, having a similarly broad spread of exhibitors from all sectors of the industry. Other Chinese exhibitions tend to be more focused on particular sectors such as furniture production.

Its standing is reflected, say the organisers, Hong Kong based Adsale Exhibition Services, in the number and geographical range of origin of its international exhibitors and visitors. The organisers also made much of the official support given to this 12th edition of the exhibition by the European machinery makers’ umbrella organisation Eumabois. And no wonder. Many readers will remember the farcical situation in 2004 – two WMF’s ago – when Eumabois expressed its strong opposition to Adsales’ stand-pricing policies by staging its own exhibition in Beijing in the week following the WM Fair, as it was then known. For 2008, the hatchet was evidently buried and Eumabois came out as an official supporter of WMF.   Also in 2004, the Shanghai exhibition WoodmacChina decided to go to annual frequency instead of biennial. That decision has also been reversed this year. Two years ago, the Chinese panel manufacturing market was being viewed with some caution by the machinery makers, who expected a sharp decline in the number of new projects for MDF and/or a switch in emphasis to particleboard. Neither scenario was fully realised, as we now know. In fact the major machinery makers have more orders (from China and elsewhere) than they can schedule into their production programmes and lead times are extended to an unprecedented degree for many manufacturers – not quite the problem they were all talking about two years ago. So the mood at the show was upbeat. Although the aisles generally appeared quiet for the first three days and most exhibitors reported a fairly slow time, they all said that the quality of the visitors was high with good discussions and a number of new projects still being talked about. Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd (SWPM) was able to report concrete progress on its long-awaited continuous press, with one having started production at parent company Kronospan’s mill in Slovakia in October 2007. It is 45m long and 8ft wide with a designed capacity of 500,000m3/year of particleboard in 6-35mm thicknesses. Design speed is one metre per second. For 2008, the company has two more continuous presses on order, also for Kronospan’s mills in eastern Europe. One is to be 52mx8ft, for particleboard production, and the other 38mx4ft, for MDF. “We are also discussing a press for the production of thin MDF with a Chinese customer. That press will be 23.8mx8ft,” said director Mr Wang Jinxing. “The market for our multi-opening press lines was affected by the imported continuous lines in 2007 and we sold 23 lines. I do not think the market in 2008 in China will be as good as 2007 because panel prices are down and capacity is high,” he said. “However, for the last two years, our exports of short-cycle presses have been very good, going to Russia, Ethiopia and Cyprus. We exported five lines in 2007.” Italian machinery manufacturers were well represented at the show. Among them, Angelo Cremona reported sales in China, mainly of veneer slicers, with some peeling machines too. Saw maker Giben said that sales in the primary panel industry in China were going well, largely due to its patented, new, super-thin panel loading device. Also from Italy, but with a joint venture factory, Imeas Sander Manufacturing (Suzhou) Ltd making smaller sanders, Imeas offered its large panel sanders, made in Italy, which have had increasing success in the Chinese market in recent years. One of several German companies with factories in China, Wemhöner Surface Technologies, opened its facility in Changzhou in June 2007. Since then it has sold six machines in China, two to the US and two to Turkey. This maker of membrane, membrane-less and short-cycle presses is already planning a second building at the Changzhou site to make larger presses, which will add 33% more space and is to be built later this year. Siempelkamp was promoting its high-speed thin HDF lines with speeds up to 2m/sec, employing a compactor in front of the press for boards of less than 3mm. Sales manager for China Michael Bischof said Siempelkamp had sold two such lines to Yingang, headquartered in Hebei province, for delivery to Hubei and Sichuan. One is 8ftx28.8m and the other is 8ftx33.8m. Both are due for start-up in 2009. In January, Siempelkamp sold an ultra-thin board ContiRoll press of 8ftx28.8m to go to Hupian in Anhui province. Last November, the company sold its first 4ft-wide ContiRoll, to Lishui in Jiangshan City. This press is 33.8m long and can produce 2 to 40mm at up to 1,500mm/sec, said Mr Bischof. Other orders in 2007 included two thin board lines to Sichuan Guodong in Chengdu and an MDF line to Dare Wood for delivery to Suifenhe, Heilongjiang province, near the Russian border. Weihua in Liaoning province also bought an 8ftx23.8m ContiRoll for delivery to Laojiang City. “We have a total of 13 ContiRoll lines running in China to date,” said Mr Bischof at the exhibition in March. German saw maker Anthon has 23 lines installed and running in China and four more to build this year. “Thin board is very popular in China and we have developed a system to feed thin board at up to 20 boards per minute in 5.7 to 6.5m lengths. The first two lines are already running in China,” said Hans-Joachim Ferchland, who has lived in China for five years. During the twelve months from January to December 2007, Dieffenbacher said it had concluded 10 new contracts for THDF continuous press plants. During the same period, Dieffenbacher started up four greenfield HDF/THDF plants in China. The company’s total tally of existing continuous lines in China is now 23, with down-payment received for a thin HDF line for PTP Leshan with a 23m press, an MDF line for Weihua Fengkei (38m) and thin HDF for Guodong Changhong (26m). All are scheduled for start-up during the 3rd/4th quarter of 2009. Gordon Wu, a sales engineer with GreCon, reported that the company’s new CT frame, with its ease of calibration and maintenance, was selling well in China. Spark detection/extinguishing systems are also arousing increasing interest for installation on the imported continuous lines, while GreCon’s quality control equipment, both on-the-line and in the laboratory, is a common site in Chinese mills. Newly slimmed-down Metso Panelboard exhibited at the WMF this year, with its refiners, refiner segments and wood handling systems. “Our segments can save energy,” said sales engineer Jansen Shang, who also said the company already has two Chinese orders for the EVO Series refiner launched at Ligna last year, both for Dare Group. Huntsman Polyurethanes has a ‘world-scale’ MDI plant in Shanghai and is keen to extend its product offering into the panel industry. It already supplies Chenming company for its laminate flooring production, while Zhenghe uses the resin in HDF for furniture production. Huntsman also supplies cereal straw-based board manufacturers. Argos of Norway reported selling a surface inspection system for raw MDF panels to a Chinese producer in 2007 – and increasing interest in this equipment. Firefly has a service centre in Guangzhou, opened last December for its fire prevention products. It has 12 installations in the Chinese panel industry and many in the tobacco industry. Jamshid Lodhi reported a lot of enquiries and potential projects for his company in China. Energy generation equipment supplier GTS Energy has eight plants in operation in China, with another one under construction and two under contract, said deputy general manager in the Shanghai office, Reinhold Luthringshauser. Sandvik Hindrichs-Auffermann reported strong business for Sandvik’s continuous steel belt business. “The market has increased two- or three-fold since last year,” said Ms Ariel Huang. American company M-E-C has supplied its drying systems to six projects – one particleboard and the rest MDF lines. The company has an office in Beijing and said it had several prospective contracts. Steinemann has supplied about 100 of its panel sanding lines in China and has had a factory in Shanghai since end-2005 making the smaller 4ft-wide machines. Since last December the company has had sanding belt conversion facilities in Shanghai too, which sends belts to Europe to go out with new machines. Electronic Wood Systems (EWS) of Germany has supplied a combined thickness/blow detection system, laboratory density analyser, infra-red moisture analysers and a weight-per-unit-area gauge to Chinese MDF maker Weihua and is to supply a similar range to Leihua. Other projects were in the pipeline at the time of WMF. Vyncke, the Belgian supplier of energy generation systems, has more than 10 plants in China, said sales manager Johan Callens, who also said he had met new potential customers at the show. Vyncke’s factory in Suzhou went into production in March 2007 making combination grates. Refiner maker Andritz had 83 references in China at the time of the show, having supplied refiners to SWPM, Metso, Siempelkamp, Dieffenbacher and Sufoma lines across the country. It has a factory in Foshan City, Guangdong province. Franz-Josef Wilbois of size reduction machinery maker Pallmann said the German company supplied its first refiner to China in 1992 and to date has delivered 32 units, 13 of which have been for continuous press lines and seven of these contracts have included debarker, chipper and chip storage. Twelve were supplied with a chip washing system. The company has had an office in Beijing since 2003, employing five people. Sia Abrasives of Switzerland has the subsidiary Guangzhou Sia Abrasives Co Ltd and has been on the China market for almost 20 years and in the panel business for the past 15. The Guangzhou factory carries out conversion for all types of belts. Berndorf Band of Austria claims to have about 50% of the endless stainless steel press belt market in China and reported 10 projects starting this year, with more to come. Bernorf has a service organization based in Beijing. Size reduction machinery maker Maier of Germany’s latest orders include hammer mills and a drum chipper to Foshan in 2008. Last year the company sold a screen to the Sinhua/Krono mill in Beijing, mills for surface layer to Hong Kong Hunwai and complete flaking department and knife grinding machine to Furen in Fuzhou. The recycling industry is becoming increasingly interesting in China, according to Maier’s ceo Robert Loth. Speaking to the exhibitors for the panel industry at the show, WMF 2008 would seem to have been a success, though many felt that running it over a weekend was probably a mistake. Visitor numbers appeared low, but it would seem that it was the more junior members of customers’ staff who did not attend this time. The decision makers apparently did and I heard nobody say they would not be exhibiting again in two years’ time.