I think it is fair to say that many exhibitors approached the two exhibitions in Beijing’s CIEC exhibition centre on March 10-13 with some trepidation. For European exhibitors especially, it is an expensive process to deliver a booth and the staff to such a distant location.


However, speaking to exhibitors after the first couple of days of the shows, all seemed quite upbeat and reported that they had seen all the right people – existing as well as prospective customers – and discussed a number of potential new panel mill/production line projects.

A lot has happened since the last edition of the biennial Woodworking Machinery and Furniture Manufacturing Equipment (WMF) show in terms of realignment of European machinery makers.

It was in fact in the beginning of 2008 that Siempelkamp and Dieffenbacher each bought part of the former Metso Panelboard company, with Siempelkamp effectively removing one of the world’s three established brands of continuous presses for panel production from the market: Metso’s ContiPress, formerly the Küsters press, ceased new manufacture although Siempelkamp continues to support existing presses in use.

Since November 2007, however, there has been a fourth brand of 8ft continuous press in operation, when the first such Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd press was started up at Kronospan’s mill in Zvolen, Slovakia. At the time, SWPM was owned by Kronospan.

However, we all know that Dieffenbacher bought Kronospan’s 70% share in SWPM in July 2009, thus keeping all the world’s continuous press manufacturing in German ownership.

What we perhaps don’t all know is that this dominance could be changing.

The WMF show was alive with talk of three potential new manufacturers of continuous presses – and all of them are Chinese-owned.

Yalian Machinery Co Ltd, a privately-owned company headquartered in Dunhua City, Jilin province, installed and ran its first continuous press in 2008.

Yalian started out as – and still is – an MDF manufacturer, with four MDF making companies in different provinces, employing multi-opening, calender and this first 4ftx22m continuous press, which was installed in one of those MDF factories. Yalian supplied the line from forming to intermediate storage, mainly from its own resources.

In 2003, the company began manufacturing Mende-type calender presses and commenced development of the true Yalian continuous press in 2006.

“If we have a new idea, we always first test it in one of our own MDF mills,said Xiqiang Guo, managing director and shareholder of Yalian. “We use the money generated from our MDF production lines to develop new products such as the continuous press. We have 20 years’ experience in MDF production and we also produce particleboard. Imported continuous lines are very expensive so we invented our own – initially for our own use, but others saw it and wanted one too,said Mr Guo.

His company now has six orders for continuous presses. Five are 4ft-wide machines of 39 and 34.6m length for producing MDF and one is 8ftx31.5m, for particleboard. The first is now under installation.

“We make the main components and buy in some sub-components.

“Personally I think we are just a beginner. In technology terms we are not up to the standards of the two German manufacturers, who are very mature in their technologies, but the advantage of our continuous lines is that there are a lot of small-to-medium size companies in China who do not have much capital and our price suits them. The richer companies will go to Siempelkamp and Dieffenbacher.

“Our market is only in China – we can’t compete with them in export with our lack of experience. Maybe in 10 years or so, when we are strong enough, we will go to the international market.”

Another major, but this time government-owned, machinery maker in China is Sufoma Machinery Co Ltd, part of the large China Foma Group, which makes many things, from woodworking machines to large construction-site vehicles and other specialist vehicles.

This company, headquartered in Beijing with manufacturing in Suzhou, and Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, has for years offered drum chippers, flakers, dryers, mills, refiners, formers, pre- and hot-presses, sanding and trimming lines, paper impregnation lines and short-cycle presses.

Sufoma’s latest refiner is a 58in diameter newly-design machine for 2010. The capacity is needed for the company’s latest development – continuous presses.

“Our first continuous press is currently under manufacture and perhaps at the end of this year, we will install it and next year will test-run the press. Then we will go into production,said vice general manager Huang Xing Guo.

“The first line is eight feet wide and will go into an MDF manufacturer in Jiangsu with a 27.5m press designed by the China Foma Group’s engineers. We are 100% owned by the Chinese government and it is investing a lot of money in China Foma – more than 15 million RMB in the research and design of the continuous press,said Mr Guo.

Rumours circulating at the show suggested a lot more than 15 million RMB.

“We want to be able to share in the market for continuous presses for larger capacities,continued Mr Guo, “Up to now, Chinese manufacturers have only offered lower capacity, multi-opening, press lines.”

Another new product for Sufoma is a cut-to-size line for panels and Mr Guo expects the first such line to be running in June or July, with several further contracts signed already for sanding/sizing lines.

The third company lining up on the starting grid for continuous press manufacture is Baihe. The company shared its stand with Binos of Germany.

Shanghai Jiecheng Baihe Woodworking Machinery Co Ltd was established in 1994 and Nicholas, its international business development manager, said the company had produced 150 multi-opening press lines since then, for plywood, MDF and particleboard production. It also makes calender press lines, with 15 going into operation since 2007. Equipment from forming to finished board – and sanders made to Binos’ design – are manufactured in its Qingpu, Shanghai works.

The new continuous press, interestingly designated the ‘Bino’ press, is still in the design phase and the company expects to make the first in “one or two years”. It plans 4ft, 6ft and 8ft widths. “German technology at lower cost,declared Nicholas.

Meanwhile, Siempelkamp of Germany continues to have success in the Chinese panel industry, and to add to its family of machinery makers.

With effect from the 1st January 2010, Siempelkamp increased its share of CMC Texpan to 80%. In June last year it took over wood preparation/size reduction machinery maker Hombak and now CMC and Hombak are working closely together to integrate their products. The Hombak products will be licensed to CMC, which will become a major engineering and manufacturing centre for Siempelkamp for the complete green end and woodyard.

“Our message here at the show is the four feet wide ContiRoll continuous press. There is still a good market here for this smaller capacity line because of wood availability. Typical capacity is 4-600m3 a day. The press has all the features of the larger ContiRolls,said Ralf Griesche, head of marketing and communications.

Siempelkamp’s workshops in Wuxi are already substantial and employ 200-plus but they are set to move to larger premises soon.

“We also plan other Siempelkamp activities in Wuxi,said managing director of Siempelkamp Maschinen- und Anlagenbau GmbH & Co KG, Heinz Classen. “Wood will be 80% of our business there, but automation systems for the automotive industry and handling for heavy foundry equipment will also be located there. We plan to make Wuxi one of our global regional centres, with more autonomy.”

By taking over supplier companies in which it had a minority share it could influence production of the whole line and reduce costs, said Mr Classen.

“We have worked overtime in Krefeld throughout 2009 and in 2010. All our national and international production facilities were at full capacity. Siempelkamp Maschinen- und Anlagenbau GmbH & Co KG alone has received new orders totalling Euro200m in 2009. These orders included four large ContiRoll press lines and four of the 4ft ContiRoll press lines, which were specifically developed for China.”

Dr Hans-Günther Schwarz is senior sales manager for Siempelkamp Energy Systems and reported five energy lines built in China to burn residues and produce all the energy needs of the panel factories.

Another German machinery maker, Wemhöner, has a factory in Changzhou, Jiangsu, opened in 2007, and plans to double capacity there, mainly in short-cycle press lines, of which it sold 5 in 2009, made in China – three were sold within China, one to Thailand and one to Brazil.

“We are very optimistic we will sell more in 2010,said Heiner Wemhöner. “Our factory is a long-term investment.”

Austrian company Andritz has a factory in Foshan, Guangzhou with a foundry and over 1,0000 workers. It has produced about 6,000 pumps and operates in hydro-electric, pulp & paper, metal strip processing, environmental process and feed & biofuel.

Foshan does not make refiners – they are made in Austria and Andritz has had considerable success in the Chinese MDF industry over the years.

Dieffenbacher of Eppingen, Germany, appeared for the first time at the Beijing fair as 70% owner of SWPM. It presented the four-feet wide continuous press concept of SWPM alongside its own technology for larger-capacity continuous presses – one of which is to become the first continuous OSB line in China later this year at Baoyuan’s factory in Jingmen, Hubei.

It also had another new member of the group represented on its stand – B Maier, German manufacturer of size-reduction equipment.

Dieffenbacher has a long reference list in China for continuous lines, mainly for MDF production, several orders on its books, and mills currently under construction.

German cut-to-size saw system manufacturer Anthon has over 20 lines installed in China so far.

Argos Control of Norway makes surface inspection systems and has a system under installation at Xian MDF after the press, to check for pressing defects.

Originally an America company, GTS Energy Systems has “gone on holdin the US but GTS Energy Technology (Shanghai) Co Ltd has been a separate company since 2008 as a joint venture with a Chinese company. GTS has supplied more than 10 energy plants to Chinese panel makers since 2006. One of the latest, due on stream in July this year, is for Baoshan Wood Industry’s MDF/HDF line in Sichuan province.

“We have a new approach in China,said Naicheng Zhou, general manager based in Shanghai. “It is not just energy plants any more but also electricity generation to at least supply the needs of the panel factory itself – possibly more [to be sold to the grid].”

From Italy came Angelo Cremona, maker of veneer and plywood machinery.

“We see a good potential in the China market which we have been supplying for 25 years for slicing and peeling lines,said Lazzaro Cremona.

As one of few global suppliers of the endless stainless steel belts needed for all those continuous presses, Sandvik was at the show to promote those in both 8ft and 4ft widths these days, of course. Press plate supplier Hindrichs Auffermann is now integrated into Sandvik Surface Solutions but still has loyalty in China under its original name. However, this side of the business has ferocious local competition.

Managing director of Sandvik Process Systems (Shanghai) Ltd, C J Goh, said that Sandvik has the majority of the steel belt market in China and currently has many contracts under negotiation.

The belts for wood based panel lines come from Europe but service is based in Shanghai.

Wood size reduction machinery maker Pallmann, from Germany, reported delivery due in July of a PR54in refiner to Gaofeng Wuzhou Wood Based Panels in Nanning, Guangxi.

It is also supplying the flaker to Baoyuan’s OSB line and chippers to Guodong Construction’s line in Chengdu, Sichuan.

Holzma has been offering combined sanding/sawing lines for some time and has three such lines under installation in China.

“The customer chooses the sander and we put it in the line,explained sales manager Norbert Diener.

Berndorf Band of Austria reported being very busy in China with sales of its endless stainless steel belts for continuous presses.

“Zhongxing Timber Co Ltd has two MDF lines, both with Berndorf belts, and is one of around 60 lines which we have supplied or which are under installation,said sales representative Helga Liu from the Beijing operation of Berndorf band. Service and repair is also centred there.

Swiss sander manufacturer Steinemann has an impressive record in the Chinese panel industry and recently shipped an eight-head Satos to Fujian Yongan Forestry. Steinemann has supplied about 35 Satos lines to China from Switzerland to date.

The Nova-H machine is made in Steinemann’s own factory in Shanghai, which opened in 2005. These 4ft-wide lines are finding favour as more and more 4ft continuous press lines are supplied to the market.

Steinemann’s Hansjörg Fritsche said business is good in China and South East Asia with a lot of customers discussing new investments, mainly since last October after a lull due to the economic crisis.

Modul Systeme, the specialist in new and used machinery, operates in three ways in China: Supplying second-hand machinery; assisting some Chinese companies to sell their second-hand European lines outside China; and utilising some Chinese-made equipment in some parts of Modul-supplied projects.

The company has an office in Wuchang, Wuhan, Hubei province, run by Mr Song Yugang.

A new company to me came from Austria. Contibelt Band Systeme of Ladendorf offers endless stainless steel belts. The company, founded in 1991, has operated traditionally in supplying steel belts for the manufacture of rubber sheeting and flooring and in the chemical industry but has also sold some belts for use in calender presses in the panel industry in China. Guangxi Xin Kai Hua Wood Based Panel Co Ltd and Guangxi Qin Lian Forest are two such customers.

Contibelt also delivered a 4ft-wide steel belt for an SWPM continuous press in Xian.

“We can go up to 2700mm wide, but we have focused on the 4ft width so far,said sales and marketing manager Mario Mihaljevic. Belt thicknesses offered range from 1.2 to 2.7mm, with lengths up to 140m in one piece.

The office and service base for the company in China is in Guangzhou.

A rare representative of the US at the show, M-E-C Company of Neodesha, Kansas, supplies drying systems to wood based panel lines and has eight references in China to date. The latest, at Sino-Panel in Gaoyao, Guangdong is in start-up phase.

“We offer dry wood burner systems up to 60 million BTUs per hour and supply suspension burners to OSB, MDF and particleboard lines,said chairman and ceo David Parker.

Leitz of Germany has a Chinese subsidiary, Leitz Tooling Systems (Nanjing) Co Ltd offering circular saw blades, hoggers, planers, cutters, routers, drills, knives and so on.

Electronic Wood Systems (EWS) of Germany is working with Siempelkamp on its SicoScan range of inline quality control systems, as well as offering its own range independently. This comprises thickness and blow detection among other products.

SicoScan is only supplied by Siempelkamp, using some EWS technology.

“We have supplied eight SicoScan lines through Siempelkamp to China since that cooperation began and we are now supplying bunker scales in cooperation with CMC Texpan,said joint managing director Hauke Kleinschmidt.

Grenzebach promoted its veneer dryers together with fellow German company Fischer & Rückle, which makes veneer cutting equipment.

Fire protection/extinguishing supplier Firefly was represented by Guangzhou Locus Technology Application, which covers sales and technical service for this Swedish-headquartered company in China. Products include the Pressguard for protecting valuable continuous presses and spark detectors/extinguishers for ducting. Mr Yee Yang Ee of Locus said he had had interesting discussions at the show, but that Chinese panel makers are still generally resistant to the cost of fire protection equipment.

Another Swedish company, Metso, was promoting its latest generation Evo system defibrator, which has been successful in China, said Ulf Eriksson. The company has a strong presence in the paper industry in China, too, with well-established service facilities in the country.

GreCon displayed its range of inline quality control and fire protection equipment. Ralf Schaekel, general manager for China, has been permanently based in the German company’s Shanghai facility since the beginning of this year. “The China market has grown so much for us,he said.

The company works with SWPM which makes the mechanical components, while the electronic parts come from Alfeld.

Sanding line maker Imeas of Italy has a factory in Suzhou making its smaller sanders and imports the larger machines from Italy. It has several large installations in Chinese panel making factories and claims to be the market leader in China for its smaller ones, made in Suzhou.

Imal of Italy had a very busy stand promoting its inline quality control, gluing systems and laboratory equipment, which have all had considerable success in Chinese panel mills with continuous presses, while sister company Pal promoted its chip cleaning and processing equipment.

All the exhibitors interviewed for this report were pleased with the contacts made at the show, although the flow of visitors was generally very patchy.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, the president of Eumabois, the European association of woodworking machinery manufacturers and an official supporter of WMF, Mr Franz-Josef Bütfering, strongly emphasised the association’s motto Choose the original – choose success and made his organisation’s views on copying, or “product piracyvery clear.

Some companies have avoided the China market for fear of this very piracy, but, as the exhibition showed, there are too many business opportunities in the market to stay away; and the growth in the Chinese economy – and its panel industry – is set to continue for some time yet.