The 2016 Xylexpo exhibition took place in the Fiera Milano-Rho Fairgrounds from May 24 to 28. According to the organisers Acimall, there were 17,145 visitors – a 14% increase on two years ago. They also claim 5,068 international visitors, representing 29% of total attendance, which was up by 9% on 2014.

As in 2014, Acimall points out, it counted "heads" instead of "visits", meaning real people instead of accesses: those 17,000-odd people visited 41,000 times between them over the five days. Europe was by far the main region of origin, with 71% of the visitors, followed by Asia (including Russia and Turkey) with 19%, Americas (6%), Africa (3%) and Oceania (1%).

On the exhibitor front, Xylexpo 2016 hosted 441 exhibitors, with 122 coming from 29 foreign countries. The total surface area of the exhibition was 29,189m2, up by 2,000m2 on 2014, says Acimall.

The Italian manufacturer of impregnation lines, Tocchio, has a new sales director, Ing Giacomo Rossi. He said that he wants the company to diversify into some new products: masking tape and filter paper. “We have already made some systems and we want to develop this side of the business,” he said. “Masking tape is a growing market, especially in eastern Europe and China.”

In its traditional product, resin impregnation lines for decor paper production, the company is reducing the carbon footprint of its lines with savings in energy and paper wastage. (For more on Tocchio and some of the other Italian companies mentioned here see our Focus on Italy, page 34) One of Italy’s longest-established companies is Pagnoni, which set up a very large engineering manufacturing business in the mid-nineteenth century in Monza. (Again, see Focus on Italy, page 34, for more.) Today, a much smaller Pagnoni is still a specialist in presses of various kinds.

Alessandro Maddalena, area manager, explained the company’s latest product – a press line for HPL production. While this is not a new field for Pagnoni by any means, it is a new press line; it bears the name QuickLine. “It is a very simple line and is cheap compared to a traditional line. It has a fast cycle time of 25 minutes, which is much less for HPL than a conventional press, and it only requires two operators instead of four,” said Mr Maddalena.

The company’s main production is in short-cycle and HPL presses, though it still occasionally gets demand for raw board presses.

The founder of Italian company Instalmec, Adriano Stocco, has had a business partner, Michael Diefenbach, on board since 2013. As executive manager and partner, Mr Diefenbach is working closely with Mr Stocco and the other engineers in San Giorgio di Nagaro in the development of a new drier for chips. Details were still secret at the time of Xylexpo as the first unit was under installation at a panel manufacturer in Europe.

Of course, this company is already wellknown for its chip cleaning systems and its low-pressure-drop (LPD) cyclones. It has also launched a new gluing system for fibres.

The fibre is glued after drying, reducing glue consumption and also reducing formaldehyde release, says the company. It adds that treatment after this gluing with the company’s Fibre Sifter makes it even more effective.

Imal-Pal Group had an impressive stand at Xylexpo, promoting the competencies of both Imal and Pal, as well as subsidiary Globus (chippers, flakers, etc). The combined group offers complete panel production lines for all panel types as well as pellet and pallet block lines. The panel production lines can include a continuous press manufactured by the company’s partner in China. Pal was featuring its newly extended Cleaning Tower for wood chips, which cleans the chips in a vertical set- up, saving transport systems and energy. Biele, headquartered in northern Spain, was presenting its wide range of equipment as well as its Marzola presses.

“Business has been good for us for the last four years,” said MD Jésus Telleria. “In 2015, we set up Biele USA for service and sales and this year we are creating a subsidiary in China, also for sales and service. We are like an octopus, with lots of tentacles!”

Biele is involved in gypsum board lines, door manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, and in thick and thin laminate production using its Marzola press. Recently the company has done good business in plywood, in lay-up lines, pressing, and panel repairing lines.

“Little-by-little, we are moving to turnkey projects where we supply all the required machines, and with Marzola we can offer complete solutions,” said Mr Telleria.

Schelling angular sawing systems was on the IMA stand as the two companies are closely linked. Salesman Stefan Hinterholzer said that Schelling has installed its machinery in most large-scale furniture producers in Italy, often in joint projects with IMA, which makes the drilling and assembly lines.

Its large angular sawing lines are to be found in panel mills worldwide. Kronospan has ordered a large plant for its Le Creusot factory (formerly Isoroy) and this will be delivered towards the end of this year. Last year saw projects supplied to Egger and Pfleiderer in Europe, while another sawing system will be delivered to Pfleiderer in Grajewo, Poland soon.

“We are seeing increasing demand coming from the panel industry,” said Mr Hinterholzer. German complete line supplier Siempelkamp also had a stand at the show. Siempelkamp subsidiary companies represented there included Electronic Wood Systems (EWS) with its fire protection and on-the-line quality control systems.

Italian subsidiary CMC Texpan was introducing its two new innovations for particleboard manufacturers, the ‘Ecoresinator P’ and the ‘EcoFormer SL’. German subsidiary Büttner was exhibiting its drying systems, complete with energy systems and burners. Siempelkamp itself is of course well-known as a supplier of complete production lines for particleboard, OSB and MDF, using its latest generation ContiRoll continuous press.

Vits of Germany is one of the two global manufacturers of paper impregnation lines and is a member of the Deurotech Group, together with IFA and Wessel. Resin mixing and dosing in various markets, in both liquid and powder systems, is the speciality of IFA, while Wessel supplies exhaust cleaning equipment.

A new venture for IFA is in production of melamine, urea and phenolic resins. Since 2014 it has installed two projects which are up and running and has a third in production.

“Together with Vits we produce different kinds of resin mixing plants” said Stefan Neumann, sales manager with IFA. “We have a lot of orders worldwide for Vits and IFA; the biggest projects at the moment are in the US and Turkey.”

Holzma of Germany was on parent company Holzma’s large corporate stand and was promoting its angular panel sawing systems, from feeding the saw and cutting it to destacking and onward transport. This company has saw systems in panel mills worldwide. Kleiberit, also from Germany, presented its HotCoating system, which sales director Rainer Kampwerth said was still growing tremendously and finding new fields of application. The company offers both highgloss and super-matte finishes and also offers an external wall cladding which combines hot coating with acrylic-based UV coatings. Roll-toroll application on CPL (continuous pressure laminate), in exterior or interior applications, is offered and is completely postformable, said Mr Kampwerth.

The company has supplied some big-name panel manufacturers in Europe, including Egger, Pfleiderer and Sonae, as well as companies in South America, including Duratex.

So Xylexpo may be a lot smaller than it used to be – many years ago, its predecessor, Interbimall, was considered almost a worthy rival to Ligna – but it still serves its purpose, it seems.

There were not very many exhibitors from the panel sector, but those that did attend seemed to have made some useful contacts.