The attendance figures were "slightly up" on the 2011 edition of this biennial exhibition, but that year itself was up on previous years anyway. Organiser Koelnmesse said that visitors from abroad made up 70% of those attending and that there was a "clear rise" in numbers from Asia, North America and eastern Europe.

Press plate designer and manufacturer Sesa SpA of Italy divided its display of new designs into four groups on its stand: New Materials; Eye-Catching; Eco-Aesthetic; and Rich-Elegance.

New Materials encompassed the mixing and matching of textures and designs with attention to the eco-credentials of production and materials.

Eye-Catching’s target group is those who love experiment and seek adventure. Eco-Aesthetic looks to tradition, naturalness and handicrafts, in close touch with nature; and to utilising deep embossing. Rich Elegance trends towards decorative opulence such as ‘Stucco Veneziano’ with a matt/gloss effect such as traditional Italian plaster finishes, for example.

Sesa says it invented embossed-inregister – EiR – and on its stand used the slogan "What you see is what you get – and it feels real".

The company also promoted its development of its iPad app, launched at Interzum 2011, for viewing its range of textures and finishes.

Schattdecor had a large stand in the centre of the hall and concentrated on four different products: Decor printing, its core business; its position as "World number one" producer of finish foils since 2012, especially Smartfoil for pre-impregnation and Postfoil for post-impregnation.

schattdecor described its Smartfoil thus: "In the future, decor products will take on additional functions…through their ability to undergo individual optical changes."

Thus Flipfoil High Gloss has a mica-based pigment combined with a PET foil to give iridescence.

‘Warm up foil’ has an energy absorbing material on the reverse and undergoes temperature changes evident to the touch. ‘Light up foil’ changes its colour as you move around it, allowing furniture to serve as an architectural lighting element, combined with images, logos or text on the foil if required.

In ’37o decor’, as the temperature goes up or down, the decor surface changes visibly. Digital VISIONS foil uses digital printing on pre-impregnated paper, which was not possible previously, said Bernd Reuss of Schattdecor.

Smartfoil Crystal Print+ gives a new clarity to the print.

Many of the company’s design ideas were there to seek comment and to say to customers: "What do you think? Should we develop this idea further," said Mr Reuss. "We started digital printing – Digital Visions – in 2009 and now produce 1,000m2/month."

The company is also still investing heavily in its printing works worldwide.

Sandvik Surface Solutions officially launched digital printing of press plates at Interzum because it is easier to achieve inregister embossing, said Sandvik’s Maren Neuhaus.

"Customers really appreciate this and we have had a lot of enquiries for new designs. It gives us more flexibility in our design and product development, because we can easily modify textures."

Sandvik also reported it had sold the widest-ever textured stainless steel press belt, at 2.75m, to a particleboard manufacturer in Australia.

The company also offered "paper-less pressing", using a powder instead of paper, and achieving 550 micron-deep embossing, mainly aimed at flooring.

Süddekor promoted its new D.Fin Polytop acrylic overlay to go on top of a melamine surface and claimed to give a "warmer and nicer" touch, with high-gloss surfaces (up to gloss 90) which do not show finger prints; and to give high scratch resistance.

The company is also starting to print polypropylene foils for the first time, to replace PVC foils for environmental reasons. Süddekor was also displaying D.Film Gentlefloor with Kleiberit hot coating on a melamine film.

Martin Endert, director of graphic arts at US press plate maker Kings Mountain International (KMI), offered two different approaches to the market: being with the trend with our feel for fashion in textures; and the My KMI app for iPad on which customers and designers will be able to view and combine a wide range of textures and decors.

Sappi Warren promoted its release papers as an alternative to textured press plates and claimed this was aimed at high-end markets where it could offer more detailed textures than press plates, with a high consistency of gloss.

Across the road from the Koelnmesse exhibition grounds, decor paper supplier Interprint had its own exhibition in the Design Post, a permanent furniture/design exhibition centre in Cologne’s refurbished old railway station, which Interprint takes over for the duration of Interzum. This enables the company to showcase its wide range of decor ideas in a 3,000m2 space.

One of the many new things on display there was ‘Premeer’, an oriented polypropylene (PP) film which is prestretched and can be formed around tight profiles without cracking or image distortion.

Press plate maker Hueck Rheinische offered its new collection for 2013 and particularly its high-gloss mirror finish to Mirror 9 grade as a non-directional high gloss for short-cycle pressing.

Hueck has also developed, with global panel making giant Kaindl, both-sidessynchronised surfaces so that the panel has the same decor on both sides.

The company was also offering a new press pad for very deep textures, such as those applied to powder-coated surfaces.

There were many panel manufacturers exhibiting at Interzum and among them, two were exhibiting a novel system of cabinet carcass construction, employing a version of the ‘Uniclic’ system developed by Unilin for jointing its laminate flooring elements. The system enables a cabinet to be built in minutes, without the use of any tools.

Thus Unilin demonstrated its Uniclic ClicBox system, while Egger showed off its Egger clic system. Both companies hold the patent for this innovation, which eliminates the need for screws, dowels or other fixing mechanisms. It also means that the units can be just as easily disassembled when you want to move home and take your furniture with you.

Also new on Egger’s stand was its compact laminate range, colour-coordinated with the rest of its decor panels, and a number of new textures to provoke discussion. Again new was the lacquering grade of partially impregnated papers which are sprayable; and digital printing, giving a very realistic 3-D appearance.

Another major panel maker, Kastamonu, headquartered in Turkey, was at Interzum for the first time in four years to promote its new factories in Romania and Russia and its range of surfaced MDF, particleboard, laminate flooring Floorpan click and its doorskin products.

Export manager Selçuk Demez said the company is the third largest producer of doorskins in the world.

The Mauro Saviola Group of Italy displayed its eco-friendly surfacing and edging products with a wide range of materials and designs.

Also from Italy, Gruppo Frati announced its ‘Wunderkammer’, or ‘Chamber of Wonders’ in surfaces, incorporating woodgrains, fantasy designs and surfaces of different types, colours and embossing.

This was a very busy show, with many visitors thronging the aisles and exhibitors happy to see them.

More than at Ligna, perhaps, students are welcome as they represent the future designers for the industry.

If Interzum 2013 is anything to go by, that future is looking good.