One exhibitor, only half-jokingly, suggested that one of the aisles of Hall 10 (the principal panel processing machinery hall) would make a good location for playing ten-pin bowling. There would not have been much chance of injuring anyone with so few visitors walking those aisles on some days.

The official statistics from the organizers after the show stated that there were 652exhibitors, 225 of whom came from abroad, on a net exhibition area of 42,500m2. It also said there were 51,480 visitors, 48% of whom came from outside Italy.
Visitor numbers for the last show, in 2008, were 81,980, while 2006 saw 93,266 people come through the gates.
The tough economic conditions must surely be largely to blame for the 37% drop in attendance over 2008, but this year there was another confounding factor. The Technodomus show, held in Rimini in April in direct competition with many ofXylexpo’s markets, must also have detracted from the long-established Milan event.
That is a pity, because there was plenty to see at the Rho Fairgrounds and many new innovations on display.
For instance it was the first appearance at an exhibition of the new Italian company GET srl, which brings together Italian machinery makers Omar, EMG, Globus, CMP and Trasmec under GET managing director, Riccardo Ferrari.
Globus, EMG and Trasmec shared a stand at Xylexpo, with an Italian Piazza setting. Globus promoted its ring flaker with patented wobble spreader disc, EMG its handling systems and Trasmec its innovative conveying systems.
Instalmec of San Giorgio di Nogaro in Udine was presenting a new application of its gravimetric separator, installed as a predryer in a large particleboard production plant. The company has installed three such plants, replacing conventional omegatype drum dryers, and using hot gases to dry wood particles and separate them from stones, plastic and other contaminants. 
Instalmec has also completely redesigned the traditional cyclone to reduce its height considerably and reduce the wear inside and the pressure-drop. “In the end we reduced height and pressure drop by 50%, saving on cyclone cost, energy and wear due to lower air speed in this LPD cyclone,said chief executive Adriano Stocco. The new cyclone was patented in 2008 and 20 units have been sold to date.
Pessa Impianti offered its expertise in wood size reduction in the form of chippers and refining mills for particleboard and for pellet production for fuel.
Another Italian company, Imeas SpA, has a strong reputation in wide-belt sanders for the panel industry and was promoting its latest concept called Full Control System.
“This system enables you to set up the machine in five seconds when it used to take 20 minutes,said sales director Francesco Zenere. “Changes of staff between shifts often means different ideas on what are the best settings for the sanding machine but this software can store the exact parameters required for each thickness in its memory and the operator just has to select the thickness required.We have 103 units so far working with this system around the world. It also integrates into the mill’s existing automation.”
Angelo Cremona is a company wellknown to the world’s plywood and veneer industries, having supplied lathes, slicers and dryers to them for a very long time.  The company recently secured a very large contract in Gabon for two peeling lines with three dryers, a vertical slicing line and press dryer and a sawmill. The value of the total project is about €40m.
Imal Pal launched its brand new Dynapress continuous press on an unsuspecting audience, together with the Dynaformer forming station for OSB, MDF and particleboard and Dynasteam steam injection for the continuous press. 
Imal of course also offered its range of on-the-line and laboratory quality control systems and Pal its range of cleaning and sifting equipment; and its gluing systems.
Imal received, at the show, an order for quality control equipment valued at €1m. 
Italian decor paper impregnation line supplier Tocchio offered its lines for use in LPL, CPL or HPL as well as edge-banding and finish foil. The company also promoted its latest offering, the Laser Cross Cutter for cutting the paper on the line.
While most machinery makers for the panel industry were in Hall 10, Giben chose Hall 1 to display its angular sawing systems with the new XY-CUT moving gripper system. 
Another very well-known Italian machinery manufacturer is now 70% owned by German complete plant supplier Siempelkamp, which has increased its existing holding in the Colzate company. This has also led to an increase in the range of products CMC Texpan can offer as it becomes one of Siempelkamp’s regional machinery production centres. 
Fezer came from Brazil to promote an upgrade to its new rotary clipper as well as its complete range of equipment for plywood and veneer production lines. It also offered a high-speed peeling line that can handle up to 12 small-diameter logs per minute. This year, Fezer has also launched a panel repairing line. 
The company reported a good order book, both locally and internationally, in 2010 so far, with most plywood producers worldwide returning to full capacity. 
China was represented by Shanghai Wood Based PanelMachinery Co Ltd, of course on Dieffenbacher of Germany’s stand since their takeover last year. 
Also from China was China Foma Group subsidiary Sufoma offering a wide range of equipment for use in panel manufacture. 
Back to Europe and Biele of Spain, which manufactures a wide range of equipment, particularly for panel handling, had its new acquisition represented on the stand.
Marzola, based in Rioja in Spain, has been in press manufacture for 150 years and offers multi-opening presses for plywood, as well as short-cycle presses and presses for high pressure laminate (HPL).
Biele andMarzola have worked together for some years but are now under oneownership.
“We are pushing our products hard in North America and are involved in discussions on several projects and we are also doing well in Brazil,said managing director Jésus Telleria. “We have done some big installations for gypsum board manufacturers in France and South Korea, too.” 
Limab AB, headquartered in Sweden, offered its panel thickness measurement device, based on a laser system, and claimed to be able to measure to one hundredth of a millimetre resolution, 2,000 times per second. The information obtained is presented in 3-D graphics. The sensors are designed to be installed close to the press or after the sander.
Siempelkamp of Germany presented itself as the “all from one sourcesupplier of complete panel production lines and featured its new modular glue metering and blending system for particles and MDF fibres, with integrated glue kitchens,  which is claimed to save glue. The stand also featured the company’s new blowline blending system.
Two recent projects were highlighted by managing director Heinz Classen, namely Ivatsevitchdrev in Belarus and Metro in Thailand. Both projects were supplied from chipper to finished board, including energy plants.
Mr Classen also pointed out that Siempelkamp had sold nine four-feet-wide ContiRoll continuous press lines in China in 2009/10. These presses were made in Germany.
German saw maker Anthon reported a reasonable 2009, largely due to Chinese contracts, and that it had signed contracts for two more lines in the country, in addition to a large sanding and sawing line for a Russian plywood factory. 
Wemhöner Surface Technologies of Germany was promoting its Master Printer printing and lacquering lines as well as its short-cycle press lines.
GreCon of Alfeld presented its latest 5000 series product range for on-the-line quality control and fire protection and the upgraded surface inspection system, Super-Scan.
Vits Technology was in upbeat mood as it reported several recent orders for its decor paper impregnation lines to Turkey, eastern Europe including Russia, and South America. 
“We have had orders for 10 lines since October 2009,said sales and marketing manager Daniel James.
The company’s first powder coating line was under installation for office furniture manufacturer Funder Inc, inMoxville, North Carolina. 
Complete line supplier Dieffenbacher of Eppingen, Germany, increased its turnover in 2009 and its equity rose by €6m after tax, according to ceoWolf-Gert Dieffenbacher. The main upturn came after October last year. He expected the same turnover (€340m) for 2010. “We also have 95% of our turnover booked for 2011,he said.
The company took orders for 17 lines incorporating its CPS continuous presses between January 2009 andMarch 2010. It also reported success for its single machines, including eight pre-heating systems and over 10 patentedMDF gluing systems. 
Lightweight boards are another area of concentration for this company’s technology.
In common with many machinery suppliers, Mr Dieffenbacher expects China to remain a strong market for his company. ElectronicWood Systems presented its brand new Dense-Lab XMark 3 laboratory density profile analyser, with upgraded software for easier operation. 
It also reported that 10 of its Conti- Scale in-the-line weighing units are operating successfully and introduced its Ultra- Scan LD blow detection system, attuned to densities of 400kg/m3 or less.
Leitz Group offered its tooling expertise, such as saw blades, with customised tool management and what it says are innovative tool systems.
Another German company, Pallmann, reported new business from Russia and South America and said it is increasingly dealing direct with the customer, rather than through the complete line suppliers. Holtec offered its expertise in logyards, including the design of the yard and the supply of feeding, debarking and chipper lines, with electrical control and switchgear systems, as well as engineering, installation and commissioning. 
Holzma, part of the large Homag Group of Germany, had two highlights to discuss:Model no5 high-speed saw for high books and for cutting small quantities in one machine very efficiently; and the CombiLine for small batches in high volume with a combination of saws and router. 
Grenzebach specialises in veneer dryers and has delivered two new screen dryers to southern France.
It has also supplied dryers for wood fibre insulation board lines in Japan.
From Austria came K-Service, offering its range of secondhand machinery for
panel production, from complete plants to glue blenders, chippers, screens and most other components of the line. 
The general atmosphere among exhibitors on the three days I spent at the Xylexpo exhibition was not positive.Most felt that the right people were not coming to their stands with serious enquiries and that the international flavour of the show was weakening.
Some exhibitors were uncertain about whether they would support Xylexpo again in 2012, though many also said they would definitely be there. 
Hopefully, the economic outlook will be better by then.