Founded by Hans-Peter Kleinschmidt in 1996, Electronic Wood Systems, or EWS, has developed a range of electronic systems to monitor quality and safety on panel production lines.
From small beginnings in Springe in northern Germany, the company moved to its current premises in Hameln, 50km from Hanover, and the home of the legendary Pied Piper of the children’s story, in 1995.
Originally the Hefehof yeast and schnapps factory, the old restored buildings were adapted under a government/local authority scheme to accommodate small ‘high-tech’ businesses in their start-up phase.
The original intention was that companies would stay for a maximum of five years and then move on.
However, EWS was given special dispensation to stay at Hefehof and has been there for nine years, but now Mr Kleinschmidt has plans to relocate his business.
“We have a reservation on a 4,500m2 property, still in Hameln, and plan to build our new offices and production centre there in 2006,he told WBPI. “We need more space and it will be a better location for our staff.”
The business has developed since those early start-up days, expanding its product range and its global market penetration and 2005 showed an 80% increase in turnover on the previous year.
Such increases obviously require more hands to run the business and there have been two significant appointments to the board of directors of EWS in the last two years.
First came Matthias Fuchs. Having run the research and development (R&D) division at competitor GreCon (where Mr Kleinschmidt also started in the business), he joined EWS as technical director and executive vice-president in May 2004, also becoming a shareholder in the business.
Then, in April 2005, Hans-Peter Kleinschmidt’s son Hauke joined EWS as sales director. Hauke, a precision engineering graduate was, prior to his appointment, responsible for R&D of mechanical components, including optics and electronics, for Mahr of Germany.
Export has always been the lifeblood of this business, averaging around 90% of sales, but Mr Kleinschmidt has seen what he describes as “a breakthroughin the German market recently.
One such domestic customer was Kunz (now part of Pfleiderer), which purchased a blow detection system after a three month trial installation in its Gschwend factory. EWS had to prove the system could measure 55mm particleboard immediately after the press exit.
As a result, further export orders arrived – Kunz subsidiary Uniboard in Canada bought a blow detection system for its La Baie MDF line.
Back in Germany, EWS closed an order through Siempelkamp in September 2005 to supply a laser thickness gauge for the Gutex thick insulation board line which Siempelkamp is supplying in southern Germany.
The Conti-Scale, launched at Ligna 2005, is a completely new area for EWS. It measures panel weights on the line and, when combined with thickness gauges, can also deliver density data to the line operators, employing a low-radiation isotopic source.
“It measures with very, very low radiation sources – equivalent to the levels in an aeroplane at 30,000ft, or a smoke detector,said Mr Kleinschmidt.
“If you want to increase production speed on a continuous line you extend the press length, but then you don’t have room for a traditional board scale and need to move the star cooler along, but that is not necessary with the Conti-Scale as it only takes up 300mm of space. Also, very thin board moves too fast for a conventional scale but ours has unlimited line speed. Conti-Scale also shows weight variations across the board, not just the total board weight.”
Under the motto ‘Scanning for quality’, EWS produces a range of equipment for on-the-line as well as laboratory applications.
Thick-Scan has measuring heads mounted in pairs on one to eight tracks on the production line behind the press and/or sander to monitor the thickness of finished panels of OSB, particleboard, MDF, plywood, or LVL.
Ultra-Scan delamination detectors can also be installed behind the press or sander and employ ultra-sonic transmitters and receivers across the width of the line to produce a sonic picture in up to 256 colours. This is a patented resonance system.
“This resonance leads to a one hundred-fold increase in sound penetration energy to avoid interference or ‘noise’ from surrounding equipment,explained Mr Kleinschmidt. In addition to delamination detection, the sound picture produced can also indicate areas of elevated moisture in the panel, or thickness variations, according to the sensitivity level set by the operator.
The company says that very thick panels can be penetrated by this system, which is why Pacific Wood Technology of Washington, US, chose it for both its LVL lines.
Temlam LVL in Canada has also ordered Ultra-Scan blow detection, and thickness gauges, for its new Raute line.
Mass-Scan continuously measures mat or panel weight-per-unit-area cross-wise or linearly on the production line. Low dose x-ray sensors are positioned between the forming line and the press, or over the finished panel, and a 3-D image is produced on a computer screen.
Measuring the moisture content of particles after the dryer is a difficult area, but EWS offers the MC-Scan, which employs an electrical resistance method to continuously monitor the material in the chutes. It takes a sample using a screw system, returning it to the chute after measuring.
The MT-Scan employs near infra-red (NIR) technology to measure moisture in fibres, chips or mat during production.
Fires have caused catastrophic damage and lost production to many panel plants around the world and in order to prevent this, EWS offers Spark-Scan, using spark detectors in combination with water spraying nozzles to extinguish sparks before they become fires.
Completing the product line-up is the laboratory system Dense-Lab X. This measures the density profile of panel samples throughout their thickness. Rauch and Glunz (Germany), Nelson Pine (New Zealand), PTP (China), and Sumitomo and Tostem (Japan) have all bought this system.
Electronic Wood Systems also cooperates with Argos Control AS of Kongsberg, Norway, a manufacturer of automatic grading systems for panel surfaces.
“We represent Argos in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and they have established an office in the same building here in Hameln,explained Hans-Peter Kleinschmidt. “We cooperate in the market, sharing contacts and representing each other.”
Argos, founded in 1992, has over 10 years’ experience in raw board surface grading systems and Glunz of Eiweiler, Germany, has recently ordered an Argos grader after good experience with an installation which has been in operation in its Kaisersesch plant for three years. More than 60 systems are in operation so far.
The market for EWS is truly global and Mr Kleinschmidt said that eastern Europe is developing well for the company.
“In early September we sold blow detection and thickness gauges to Kronopol in Zary, Poland and two thickness gauges and a blow detection system to Egger’s project in Shuya, Russia.”
Daiken already has EWS measuring systems installed in its MDF factory in Bintulu, Sarawak and has now purchased a weight per unit area gauge ‘Mass-Scan’ for its Miri MDF plant.
In Nigeria, the company has supplied the full range of its equipment to Omo Wood’s particleboard lines.
In the North American market, EWS is represented by EWS Int in Beaverton, Oregon, run by Steven L Mays.
It is also represented in China, Korea and Japan and EWS’ own sales staff travel the globe in sales and service roles.
In upgrading secondhand production lines, EWS has supplied Merbok MDF Lanka (Sri Lanka), Omo Wood (Nigeria) and Mortka MDF (Russia).
The company recently gained ISO 9002 certification.
In what for many companies have been difficult market conditions in recent years, EWS has expanded its business and its staffing levels and seems confident about its future.