This year marks 25 years since Hans-Joachim (Hajo) Binder sold his first complete secondhand particleboard line to a company called National Particleboard in Pakistan.That line, like Mr Binder’s company Modul Systeme, is still very much in operation.
Modul also owns two-thirds of a company called Springer M-R-S. Located in Springe, alongside Modul’s warehouse full of second-hand and refurbished machinery, SMRS designs and manufactures brand new gluing systems and board transfer stations for calender lines as well as custom-designed forming stations. It also carries out refurbishment and reconditioning of a wide range of machines for itself and for Modul Systeme.
In November 2008, SMRS resumed the activities of a company once commonly seen in panel mills – DeMets NV – which manufactured presses, pre-presses and cement bonded particleboard cold presses. SMRS acquired the rights to the DeMets name and alldrawings and specifications. New DeMets presses are now available from SMRS and it also offers service and spare parts for all existing DeMets equipment.
“Our clients are often used to, and more comfortable with, proven technologies,said Mr Binder, ceo of Modul Systeme. “They don’t like ‘black boxes’ where they are not in control of the process and can’t see what is going on. So, we developed a high-tech gluing system with freely programmable controls. It is a modular system with the modules built into frames which can simply be lifted into place, connected together and they are working within two days.”
Sales manager Margret Michl described the concept in contemporary terms as “plug and play”.
“If you are buying a Siempelkamp or Dieffenbacher complete big continuous production line and their engineers come and install everything for you and get it working, that’s OK,continued Mr Binder. “But with a more-basic line upgrade or modification, our approach is preferred and we can offer upgrades to all particleboard and MDF lines, as well as offering complete lines.Modul also has a history in plywood lines.
The majority of Modul’s business is in developing countries where less technological
‘sophistication’ is often preferred and where the skill-set in the factory may be lower than in western European countries, for example.
“We allow our clients to choose what they want, based on their own experience, rather than presenting them with just one option,said the chief executive.
The glue preparation/mixing systems offered by Modul are basically common to both MDF and particleboard mills although the application of the glues is obviously different.
For the particleboard industry, the company has developed flake dosing bins with  integrated belt scales and it also supplies the blenders, with exchangeable liners (‘wear troughs’) if required.
Some glue system projects are supplied via OEM’s such as Dieffenbacher. As an example, the Unopan MDF line supplied by Dieffenbacher was equipped with glue dosing for its 1,400m3/day capacity from Modul Systeme, as a sub-contractor.
The latest direct supply of a glue dosing system for MDF went to Uniboard USA LLC for another 1400m3/day line.
“In our business we have to follow the client’s wishes – whatever he wants we will find.  We offer advice but if the customer is set on one particular thing, that is fine,said Ms Michl.
Recent projects for Modul Systeme include the first-ever particleboard plant for Ethiopia.  This was a second-hand Bison/Dieffenbacher line from Molar Wood in Thailand, plus a  short-cycle press from Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd (SWPM).
The Dieffenbacher press was a singleopening unit of 2440x14640mm with a capacity of 260m3/day; Maichew Particleboard Project produced its first board in March 2009.
In 2001, Modul supplied a Siempelkamp ContiRoll press, relocated from the US, to Kwangwon Lumber in South Korea to make MDF. In 2008, it supplied a second line, also from the US (Georgia Pacific) and this was another ContiRoll, with a capacity of 290m3 /day. First board was produced in August 2009.
Urupanel SA of Uruguay built that country’s first MDF line when Modul supplied another ContiRoll line, this time relocated from Daesung’s MDF factory in South Korea and with a capacity of 230m3/day. It produced its first board in April 2009.
A single-opening particleboard line was also supplied to Tableros Peruanos SA, relocated from Utisa in Spain. This 220m3/day Dieffenbacher press line produced its first board in October 2009. The line has ClassiFormer forming (originally from Metso).
In contrast to many companies in the panel industry, Modul has had quite a reasonable 2009 in terms of orders.
Repinho of Brazil purchased a shortcycle line, which is already in operation. It also ordered a particleboard line and dismantling started in August in the former factory of Merbok in Kedah, Malaysia. It is scheduled to restart in its new location during 2010.
A secondhand 4ft-wide Mende-type calender line from Venezuela, which started life producing particleboard, is being combined with a refiner from Pfleiderer’s plant in Nidda, Germany and will take shape, combined with other machinery, to make up a complete line for a Modul customer in the Far East, where it will then produce MDF.
The latest project for Modul at the time of my visit to its Laufen offices in early October was to dismantle Glunz’s first MDF line, Topan 1, in Germany, and transport it to Iran where it will be re-assembled. This includes a 350m3 a day ContiRoll press and everything else from chip washer to finished board.
“We started to feel the downturn in 2008 and business has been quite quiet this year,said Mr Binder. “Our project times are shorter than the major suppliers so we felt the effects earlier than some others in 2008. Now we feel, again earlier than some others that the market is beginning to come back. I hope we are ‘through the valley’ and beginning to come up again, whereas the big OEMs are still stuck in that valley.
“It is not always between us and [Siempelkamp or Dieffenbacher] but there is now a trend towards one of them getting the order for the continuous press for example and our getting the order for the front end and/or the finishing line.”