When the street address of a company is the same as its name, you can guess maybe that company has a long story to tell.
So it is with G Siempelkamp & Co KG of Siempelkampstrasse, Krefeld. This town, close to Düsseldorf in Germany’s industrial heartland, was founded on the textile industry and Gerhard Siempelkamp started his company here in 1883.
He revolutionised the textile press by drilling the hot platens so that they could, for the first time, be heated without being removed from the press. The rest, as they say, is history – and a more recent history that has seen the name ContiRoll become extremely well known in the world of continuous panel presses.
Today?’s Siempelkamp group has two main roots: Siempelkamp Maschinen-und Anlagenbau and Siempelkamp Guss und Anlagentechnik. The former made its name in machinery for panel production, while the latter specialised in the foundry sector and in engineering connected with the dismantling of nuclear facilities.
On January 1, 2002, the two companies were united in G Siempelkamp GmbH & Co KG. The motive behind this structural change was to exploit the synergies existing within the company’s different areas of operation with regard to the knowledge base, design, support, assembly and startup service sectors and also to ‘spread the business risk over a variety of markets with different economic cycles’. Today’s panel industry will appreciate the relevance of that last statement.
There are now five operating divisions within the one holding company. These are machinery and plants, industrial automation, foundry technology, nuclear technology and metal forming.
Siempelkamp Maschinen-und Anlagenbau heads up the machinery and plants division. This includes Dr E Schnitzler and Sicoplan, both specializing in plant and project engineering; Büttner for dryers; CMC-Texpan for forming machines and associated equipment; Imal for on-the-line and laboratory quality control, fire prevention and gluing systems; Pal for raw material processing; and the Siempelkamp service company.
Short cycle lamination lines also come under the machinery and plants division. However, this division is not solely concerned with the wood based panel industry, but also supplies complete lines to the rubber, mineral board and plastics sectors.
Within the Industrial Automation division are two principal groups of companies – electrical and mechanical. Electronic control and automation and software company ATR, and Ferrocontrol with its control systems for window manufacture, occupy the first category, while Siempelkamp Handling Systeme, or SHS, Schermesser, and Strothmann handle the mechanical side of the automation technology, including robot technology.
Heinz Classen, vice-president of the machinery and plants division, is anxious to point out that this organisational restructuring of the Siempelkamp group is just that and does not affect the company’s established relationships with its customers.
“The wood based panel industry is the biggest industry sector for Siempelkamp, accounting for 60 to 70% of the business and for them, nothing has changed with this new organisation,he says.
It is of course no secret that the panel manufacturing business has been tough for quite a while and Mr Classen acknowledges that fact: “The market has dropped for everybody in recent years but things are not so bad for us,he says. “We sold eight ContiRoll lines last year and seven so far this year. We have sold 16 in a year in the past but they were very good years. We have had to lay off some people like everybody else. The furniture industry in Germany has been very quiet this year.
“But China has been a major market for us this year and Thailand has picked up a lot, with orders for two particleboard lines, at Vanachai and Metro, and there is more to come in that country.Siempelkamp supplied one MDF line to China at the end of 2001 and has sold two there this year – to Dare Wood and Dan Yang. The latter will be the largest line in China and is due for start-up in the third quarter of 2003.
“We recently signed an order for an MDF line with Luyuan in Hanzhou,continues the vice-president. “The company already has 10 multi-daylight lines and is now investing in a 23.8m ContiRoll continuous press for thin board.This line is also due to start up towards the end of 2003.
“We see a new kind of company coming up in China, investing in high-tech lines from Europe. China now has several thin board lines from different press manufacturers and they will see whose is best,says Mr Classen, acknowledging that there is stiff competition among the world’s three continuous press line manufacturers.
“Siempelkamp has a lot of experience in thin board production – we have supplied four lines in the last 12 months – to Sunchang in Korea, Fibranor in Spain, Isoroy in France and Plum Creek in the US – and a total of 11 lines in recent years.”
He is also optimistic about the future for the US and points out that Siempelkamp recently sold its longest-ever press line to Huber for OSB production. The press is 60.3m long, incorporating a pre-heater for the strands.
All the major machinery producers are anxious to differentiate themselves and one way is to concentrate on marketing a particular product, while still emphasizing the company’s general capabilities.
Thus thin and ultra-thin MDF and HDF lines are a major area for Siempelkamp at present and it has developed several new technologies specifically for this market.
These include a new mat forming system which removes the need for scalping, a fibre mat pre-heating system, a flexible-infeed ContiRoll to run at speeds up to 295ft per minute and finishing equipment adapted to match this high production speed.
The new scalper-less former for MDF is called the StarFormer. In the past, scalping could remove as much as 50% of the fibre and return it to the former, with three main disadvantages.
Firstly, the recirculated fibre cooled and a high temperature is needed for thin board production. Secondly, the physical process of scalping could lead to density variations in the boards. Thirdly, pre-cure of the resin on the fibre is a risk inherent in the recirculating process. The StarFormer has a levelling head which mechanically organises the fibres to get an even density mat without scalping.
The particleboard sector has also not been forgotten and for this Siempelkamp has developed the CrownFormer. This machine is more compact and is claimed to result in low building costs for halls and steel structures and low maintenance costs for the machinery. It employs mechanical disc rollers to distribute the raw material of the mat.
The CrownFormer has been on the market for just over a year, with the first units being installed in Berneck in Brazil and Finsa in Spain. Its primary purpose is to produce produce improved surfaces for particleboard and Berneck claims it now has one of the best-surface boards in South America.
“The big advantage is that you can decide how thick your surface layer should be and it will be homogenous throughout,explains Otto R Voss, project development chief for Siempelkamp.
“This means that sanding does not expose coarser particles below the surface.”
That leaves one main area of the composite panel market which we have not mentioned – OSB. Here again, Siempelkamp’s development engineers have not been idle. Because of the bulk of an OSB strand mat, increasing the speed at which a continuous press line can run is more of a challenge than it is for either MDF or particleboard. To address this, Siempelkamp has developed the ContiTherm mat pre-heater.
The purpose of this device is two-fold: to increase the speed of the mat through the press and to add moisture to it in order that the board exits the press at a moisture content closer to that of the ambient air, thus reducing the risk of thickness swell.
The addition of moisture and elevated temperature also leads to increased plastification of the strands which again improves the thickness swell characteristics of the finished board, claims the company. Also, because the strands are more pliable, it is not necessary to have such a high pressure in the press and this leads to a reduction in costs.
For a given press length, the increase in capacity claimed is in the order of 20 to 30% and this may obviate the need to extend an existing press.
When considering a new press, the mill can thus choose between a shorter press than would have been required without the core heater, or a higher output from a longer press.
A further advantage claimed for the ContiTherm is that heat is passed through the entire mat in order to enable a reduction in the mat height, which in turn increases the range of thicknesses the press can produce. However, adding heat and moisture could have a downside if it caused pre-cure in the resin, so the heat/steam mix in relation to the resin used is very important and carefully controlled in the Siempelkamp system.
Every panel manufacturer is looking for ways to cut costs, especially in the current market, and one way to do that is to optimize the production equipment you have.
Electronic control and software company ATR, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Siempelkamp, together with the Krefeld R&D department, has developed a system to achieve such optimisation.
A frequent cause of uneconomic production is when a panel production line changes from one panel specification to another – possibly several times a day.
The new control system changes the settings of the former, pre-press, press, etc in sequence to avoid the necessity of opening the trash gate, re-setting the parameters and then re-starting the flow of the mat. This saves time and reduces the amount of mat recycled during panel thickness or specification change. Also, it avoids having an empty hot press.
Mat width can also be changed gradually and progressively rather than creating a gap in production, says Siempelkamp. Increased uptime and a reduction in capital cost are the main objectives of this optimisation. These costs can be reduced by possibly reducing the length of the press required, or avoiding the need to extend a press where there is perhaps not space in the factory to do so.
A production management system developed by ATR and known as PROMACS can also be retro-fitted to the ContiRoll line. This optimises company-specific information processes by acquiring, displaying, analysing and archiving process data to increase plant uptime, guarantee board quality, save resources and maintain promised delivery dates, claims ATR.
Another system offered by ATR is SPOC – statistical process optimisation and control – a Windows based system for online quality prediction and process optimization for continuous production. This is claimed to save raw material, increase output and achieve online quality prediction of internal bond, density and other physical characteristics of the board.
An alternative way to save capital cost is to improve the equipment you have rather than replacing it. To this end, Siempelkamp offers a modernisation service, notably for the ContiRoll press.
This continuous press has been around since 1984 and has evolved considerably. In fact, the first ContiRoll, which started life as the Siempelkamp R&D press and was then sold to Louisiana-Pacific in Oroville in the US, has just been sold again, dismantled and moved to Korea.
Early versions employed a wedge system to change panel thickness and this can be replaced with a much more efficient modern hydraulic system, controlled remotely. Other modifications available include the installation of a flexible infeed section, a chain cleaning system, improvements to the belt tracking, replacement of the old flexible hydraulic pipes, which could be a hazard in the event of a fire, with rigid pre-fabricated hydraulic pipes, and increasing the heating capacity by increasing the flow of the heating medium.
The most major modification to raise capacity is to increase the press length. This can be done by inserting additional heated sections into the middle of the press, but this is limited by the fact that the length of the pressing zone itself is fixed and with an extension it becomes a smaller percentage of the total press length.
Mixing plastic and wood to produce panels with specific properties is another area of activity for the company.
A new-concept line due to start up any day is a wood-plastic composite siding panel line for Boise Cascade in Sasop, Washington State, in the US. This will utilise waste polyethylene and wood particles to produce a weatherproof siding panel for house construction, suitable for colour application.
Agricultural fibre based boards are not forgotten in the Siempelkamp portfolio and lines to utilise bagasse, straw and other agricultural residues are offered.
Raw board manufacture is, of course, not the only area of expertise. Short-cycle press lines for laminating panels with resin impregnated papers have been supplied for many years.
The basic version is the single board press, offering charging times of eight seconds and cycle times of up to 180 per hour. Standard board sizes are 1220mm x 2440mm to 2440mm x 5600mm. The double board press is similar but laminates two boards simultaneously in lengths up to 5600mm each. Maximum capacity is 360 panels at 180 cycles per hour.
Topping the range is the Multi Power Press, whose development was driven largely by the laminate flooring industry. Short press times of around 12 seconds minimise the absorption of heat by the HDF base board to give a stable product.
Rather than the conventional two rows of pressure cylinders, the Multi Power Press has four pistons across the width and 10 along the length, giving a total of 40 pistons. This is claimed to give more even pressure distribution and the press also offers several pressure circuits with the facility to provide optimum pressure adjustment in both axes for different board sizes. Available with single or double board capacity, the press is capable of up to 180 pressings, or 360 panels, per hour.
Such speeds have to be matched with handling equipment which can feed panels and papers to the press and remove the finished panels in a timely manner.
The recent development of in-register decor papers for designs such as tile effects has increased the demands for accuracy placed on handling systems.
Siempelkamp has always promoted itself as a supplier of complete panel plants, using its own extensive manufacturing facilities and a number of wholly or partially owned subsidiaries with special areas of expertise to complement them.
Many of these plants have been supplied as turnkey projects although there seems to be an increasing trend for panel manufacturers to take more control of specification and supply of various plant components, perhaps mixing and matching machinery from different suppliers.
The other major trend in recent years has been a reluctance by mills to invest in complete new plants if what they already have can be upgraded and optimised.
Siempelkamp has responded to these trends by becoming an increasingly flexible supplier and investing heavily in research and development, which may be two reasons why the company will be able to celebrate its 120th anniversary in 2003.