When WBPI caught up with Italy’s Giardina Finishing in mid-March, the coronavirus situation was obviously dominating the news in the country.

But companies in the nation, a major supplier of manufacturing technology in the global wood industries, were still working hard to maintain a service to customers and indeed fulfil orders.

Giardina, based just north of Milan, has experienced strong demand recently, including a period of intense activity in North America, while its Excimer technology for enabling durable matt finishes is also attracting global interest.

Sales director Stefano Tibé remains positive about business prospects despite the challenges of the onset of the coronavirus.

He recently returned from one of Giardina’s most recent project installations – an interesting production line for the finishing of MDF panels mainly used for internal walls of buildings.

The Canada-based customer is a large fit-out contractor providing turnkey solutions for companies, including hi-tech interiors for corporates – for instance Apple’s HQ –as well as hospitals. It has been supplied by Giardina since 2003, when a first spray line was installed.

Giardina said the company was experimenting on a particular painting cycle (water-based white primer applied with curtain coater and UV white primer applied by roller) on MDF panels.

The priming line coats MDF boards in 4x8ft and 4x12ft dimensions in half-inch thickness and is designed to give high levels of impermeability in an environmentally friendly finishing cycle. It was developed hand in hand with the customer to define new standards in priming.

The unique feature of the line is automatic priming of top and bottom surfaces, with automatic loading and an in-line flipper for the other side to be coated.

The technology features a curtain coater applying a wet film thickness of 150-175 microns and stacking technology for drying. The white pigmented UV primer is applied at 10-15g/m2.

“The reason to use UV coating is to prevent panels sticking together,” said Mr Tibé. “The material has to be well protected to prevent any of this sticking.”

Boards are then moved to other departments and cut into smaller sections for edge profiling and final finishing.

Interior cladding panels is one of the intended uses of the panels, sometimes in combination with technology.

Positive results of the investment have led to orders for an additional two lines for the customer. These will be a priming line and a top coating spray line for wider panels (5ft wide) – due to be delivered in 2020.

Wren Kitchens

Giardina Finishing has a long track record at another key customer – UK-based Wren Kitchens.

Wren is the UK’s number one kitchen retailer with 90 showrooms and the capacity to manufacture over 2,000 kitchens every week.

“The company had very large investment plans for last year and still for this year,” said Mr Tibé.

A major project for Wren at the moment is its first international expansion – the US market.

This spring it will open its first US manufacturing facility in Northeast Pennsylvania, with future plans of developing its headquarters in the state too.

The 252,000ft2 site in Hanover Industrial Estates, Hanover Township, will encompass state-of-the-art machinery and assembling facilities.

Some of Giardina’s equipment to supply the factory has already been shipped to the US. Wren’s first US showroom is being opened in Milford, Connecticut, this summer with several more showroom openings planned throughout the year in the northeast US.

Excimer Technology

Mr Tibé said Giardina has taken a positive approach to the current challenges created by the coronavirus and said several of its customers still have large investment plans, with good project leads still coming in from Europe.

“We are always optimistic,” he added. One of its reasons for optimism is high expectations for its Excimer technology which can produce super matt, low gloss finishes but with the same durability of finish as high gloss.

At the latest edition of exhibition Drema in Poznan (Poland) last September, Giardina Group demonstrated the Excimer technology with its GST ZeroGloss dryer. It works by using paints with special characteristics and special lamps in a nitrogen-rich environment so the surface structure can obtain a zerogloss surface.

The excimer process – activated thanks to the energy that the excimer lamp emits in an inert atmosphere – offers advantages including an ultra-matt surface (1.5-5 gloss without using opaque agents); “antifingerprint” properties; an increase in surface hardness; chemical resistance and abrasion; an extreme “softness” to the touch and a lesser chance of yellowing over time. “We see this low gloss as having the same appeal as high gloss,” said Mr Tibé.

“Low gloss finishes have always been requested in interiors but usually the poor surface resistance had reduced the potential for matt finishes. But now due to this surface technology it is possible to produce a surface with a high scratch resistance.”

A major breakthrough for Giardina has been the supply of a full line to a major subcontractor finishing company, including the Excimer technology.

Giardina expects this to have great influence on the Italian market and to lead to a big increase in demand for the Excimer technology. “We are spreading the word,” added Mr Tibé.

Excimer technology has been demonstrated at the Xylexpo 2018 and Ligna 2019 global woodworking technology exhibitions.

New Innovation Centre

Meanwhile, another major development for Giardina Group was the official opening of its Giampiero Mauri Innovation Centre at its Trade Day event on December 13-14, 2019. Some 40 agents and distributors from all over the world met for the event at Giardina’s headquarters in Figino Serenza, in the province of Como.

They got to experience the 2,500m2 innovation centre which includes meeting and training rooms surrounding a 1,500m2 showroom / workshop which includes all the operational technologies of the Giardina Group.

“This was a very important moment for us”, said company owners Stefano and Riccardo Mauri after the event.

“We have put on display the fruit of a determined approach that allows us to have an effective centre where today all our skills are showcased and made available.

“It’s a place that we have officially opened to our worldwide sales network because it is, and must always be, available to them, so that they may illustrate what we know and what we can do to their customers”.

2019 ended as an excellent year for the group, with a significant increase in sales and a turnover of €20m.