When you take a visit to Binos GmbH in Springe there is no escaping from its illustrious past.

Its former name Bison is still emblazoned on the huge factory exterior in Springe, Lower Saxony, and the Bison statue takes pride of place outside the offices.

Tom Greten, ceo, carries on the family heritage as the third generation of his family to run the business, which became Binos in 1999.

When WBPI visited the company in late September as part of its Focus on Germany tour, it was very clear how Binos has re-aligned itself in recent years.

An immediate example could be seen in the factory – machines being assembled for export to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where a date palm frond particleboard factory will be built.

And a small demonstration structure clad with cement-bonded particleboard also gives a clue as to how Binos has diversified its engineering expertise.

Binos’ niche these days is supplying the engineering skills and technology for small-scale niche production, not large lines for standard wood panel products, as well as supplying individual machines.

Cement-bonded particleboard (CPB) plants are a main area of business at the moment for Binos, with Russia an important customer. Its CSP Plus board is a patent-registered cement bonded particleboard with improved properties.

"It’s a very robust product to use on the outside of a house and in bathrooms," said Achim Hackspiel, Binos director.

The product is also used for acoustic boards in ceiling applications.

Binos attended the LesDrevMash exhibition in Moscow during October to promote its expertise in this area.

"In Russia there are a few cementbonded particleboard projects which are very interesting," said Mr Hackspiel.

Binos is hoping to gain final approval for one of these by the end of the year.

The company attended the recent International Inorganic-Bonded Fiber Composites Conference in Danang, Vietnam, for the first time and was one of the sponsors.

"We were very excited to be there and we are talking to some customers in South Asia about cement-bonded particleboard," said Mr Hackspiel.

Of course, CPB factories do exist in the region, such as Panel World Co, which manufactures the Smile Board.

"It’s a very interesting market," said Mr Hackspiel. "South Asia needs this product and there are no problems with any formaldehyde emissions."

Binos has also picked up CPB plant orders from Cetris in the Czech Republic, which claims to be Europe’s largest producer of cementbonded particleboard.

Cetris manufactures the product for a wide range of applications such as facades, flooring and even interior design uses. Bison originally supplied the line for Cetris back in 1991, with extensive refurbishment following in 2010. Binos is also making inroads into the palm/ agrifibre panel product market, with its first-ever supply of a date palm board manufacturing plant, to a customer in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The product – made from date palm branches – is a substitute for imported plywood and OSB and can be used for applications including 18mm shuttering board.

The manufacturing operation will utilise a locally available cheap raw material that would otherwise be burned.

Binos is managing the delivery of the whole line from the end of 2014, including procurement of some other components, such as the press, from other suppliers.

"In the 1970s and 80s Bison completed a lot of research on the potential of agrifibre as a substitute for wood," said Tom Greten, Binos ceo.

"The know-how was created to make these products then, but wood was quite cheap at the time, so the market didn’t need it. Times have changed and there is now a market. We are reigniting the toolbox we created in the 1970s and 80s and are making adjustments now."

A large consumer market has grown up in Dubai, compared to 20 years ago."So we think it is the right time to build a plant there.

"We think we can do it with other kinds of palms as well," said Mr Greten.

"The potential is certainly there in the region to have more plants, as other places have the same scenarios, so we feel quite well prepared to take this on."

But despite this success, Mr Greten does not think it will be an oft-repeated project.

Other types of agrifibre based panel products include bagasse, a fibrous sugar cane byproduct; Binos is frequently asked for quotations for bagasse board installations.

In terms of more traditional wood based panel production lines, Binos is putting more emphasis on the supply of single machines, provision of engineering expertise and refurbishment projects, rather than competing on large-volume new plants.

"Our focus is with small lines and small production capacities such as 50,000m3," said Mr Greten. "We are not in the markets where all the others are fighting. We do not have a standard product, we have solutions.

"For the future that is a good strategy – small lines in regions where they have local sources of wood raw material."

Despite a lack of new line investment in Germany in recent times, Binos said the lack of optimisation in the factories gave hope that investment by board manufacturers in the country was only a matter of time.

Thin MDF is an interesting area of focus for Binos, using the Mende-type calender presses to produce 2mm MDF products.

"The Mende press is low-cost and easy to do, compared to continuous double-belt presses," said Mr Greten.

Binos is working with a customer in Belarus, producing thin MDF at a plant which went operational this year. The next stage will be production of 1mm thick board with a homogeneous board face.

Of course, careful management of fibre weight distribution and product appearance becomes more crucial the thinner the board.

When asked if the product could go down to 0.5mm thick, Mr Greten ventured: "Why not?"

Across Binos’ various markets, Russia has already been highlighted as a main market for the company, with some good prospects possible there for OSB technology.

Specific solutions to improve plant efficiencies include the BINOS Scalper, exhibited for the first time at Ligna 2013 and recently updated. BINOS claims wood fibre savings of 2% if used in automatic mode together with the GreCon Dieffensor.

The solution is designed to reduce raw material wastage and remove the "safety buffer" that many panel makers build into their mat height.

Three scalper installations have been made to date, two of which are running in 24hr operation.

The first BINOS Scalper in Japan will be an MDF line installation, while it is also involved in discussions to supply OSB lines in Germany.

The technology will be at Ligna again next year, along with a new innovation aimed at further improving efficiency and reducing waste.

Although not able to detail the new development publicly so near to Ligna 2015, an initial explanation to WBPI certainly suggests it should be a focus of attention.

Another main focus for Binos is its modification capabilities, including converting old particleboard lines to the Binos Combi- System for dual production – both particleboard and OSB/OPB boards – using the Binos Combi- Former, with wind-former for particleboard and roller bed for OSB/OPB (oriented particleboard). Binos reported a good spare parts business for the old Bison sanders, which it still makes to order if required.

"With sanders we talk about the sanding quality they need, we do not talk about the lowest prices," added Mr Greten.

Other business involves conversion to Binos’ spike roll and vacuum system for MDF forming.

"First of all it’s about providing solutions for the customers, doing the engineering work for an optimised solution. Then we look at whether the market actually offers such machines?

"If the market does not offer these machines, then we build them ourselves."

This bespoke philosophy, the company says, is why Binos does not have a big product brochure full of standard machines.

"We see a good future," said Mr Greten.

This optimism is demonstrated by Binos taking on seven new employees recently to add to the 80-strong workforce.