In 2011 at the Ligna exhibition, Siempelkamp launched the latest version of its signature ContiRoll continuous press, named Generation 8.

At the time of our meeting in the closing days of September, Stefan Wissing, managing director of Siempelkamp Maschinen und Anlagenbau, announced that the company had sold 33 of its ContiRoll Generation 8 presses out of a total of over 300 ContiRoll presses sold since its inception.

This latest press has several improved features and is continually under development in order to improve board quality and economy-in-production for Siempelkamp’s panel manufacturing customers, said Mr Wissing.

"The major change in the Generation 8 press is a very significant improvement in pressure distribution, both in the length and width," said the managing director.

"After a lot of our own research, and research carried out in cooperation with universities, we now have a press that is virtually isobaric in its pressure distribution and this is important for the optimal curing of panels.

"Pressure distribution plates equalise the pressure, so there is considerably less pressure variation between the press frames," explained Mr Wissing.

He pointed out that if the pressure is applied mainly at the press frames, and there is therefore less pressure between the frames, this leads to a ‘breathing’ effect inside the mat during the resin curing process along the length of the press, which can break the resin bonds in the panel.

"You should have the frames as close to each other as possible. We first developed the pressure distribution system for presses for rubber belt conveyors and then applied the principle to thin MDF as this is the product where pressure variation has the most effect," said Mr Wissing, saying it can offer resin savings of up to 15%.

Siempelkamp adds additional support between the frames so that the top and bottom platens always move in parallel. In order to improve cross-wise pressure distribution, there are more hydraulic cylinders per frame, cross-wise, in the Generation 8 press than in previous generations.

Siempelkamp has also just introduced its ‘EcoDrive’ – a compact system with a new synchronous motor and a gearbox. This system is claimed to reduce electrical power consumption with reference to the press output, because the system’s energy efficiency is greater than in a traditional system.

The previous ContiRoll system could have up to eight motors and four gearboxes at the outfeed drums of the press, but with the new system, a ContiRoll now only needs two motors and two gearboxes.

"We have worked for many years on this new drive system and Rauch Spanplatten [a German particleboard and furniture manufacturer] will have the first press with the newly-designed motor and gearbox, which is much more efficient in its use of electrical energy. We expect up to 95-97% electrical efficiency," said Mr Wissing. "The motor also runs at much lower speeds, which is why we can have smaller and simpler gearboxes. More importantly, the EcoDrive reaches its highest efficiency at partial load, representing the normal production conditions in a panel mill."

Andreas Steffen, head of plant assembly and start-up, added: "This type of motor is also advantageous to customers with more than one press because they only need to stock one type of motor as a spare. We can also retro-fit the new EcoDrive system to older presses. The customer will need new motors, gearboxes and electrical controls, but the press outfeed drums remain the same."

This new drive system is not yet standard – it is an option – but the company expects it to become the standard in time.

"More and more countries are likely to enforce the use of the highest-efficiency electrical equipment; some already do," added Mr Steffen.

Siempelkamp claims that the EcoDrive gives high efficiency, high torque, less wear and is water-cooled, thus avoiding the dust problems of air-cooled motors.

In common with previous generations of the ContiRoll, the Generation 8 has a highly flexible infeed, meaning the same press can process thin, thick, heavy, light, wide, or narrow panel product requirements. The flexible platens are ‘infinitely’ flexible, not in set increments, and this extends for the first six frames of the press.

"You need a lot of heat in the first section of the press, therefore we have minimum spacing between the heat channels in the platens, combined with maximum diameter of the drilled channels, which are drilled length-wise in the platens rather than widthwise," said Mr Steffen. "This gives optimal heat distribution and superior heat transfer at maximum temperature differential between the cold mat and the hot steel belts during the very first pressing phase."

For lightweight panels, it is important that, when the required low density is reached, the weight of the platens doesn’t crush the mat. Siempelkamp provides pullback cylinders in the ContiRoll to hold the platens up at that critical time. The press also has more differential cylinders in this case.

It can happen that there are bulk density variations in the wood raw material coming to the press infeed. To handle this, Siempelkamp offers the PIP, or Press Infeed Pilot, which gives automatic compensation for these variations by adjusting the upper infeed head automatically in order to give a constant product quality in terms of surface density and reduced sanding. This PIP has been available for some 10 years, but has not perhaps had the publicity it deserves, said Mr Wissing.

After the press, perhaps the second most important machine for final panel quality is the forming machine.

Siempelkamp’s MDF mat former incorporates fibre break rollers which break the fibre flow falling into the mat former bunker in order to fill the bunker with a fibre furnish of homogenous bulk density and this has proved to give a big improvement in the mat weight profile, while at the same time saving fibre and therefore cost.

"We have recently delivered two new MDF lines to Russia and Turkey, with a new development for improved mat forming. It required no extra machinery, or cost, but simply the changing of the configuration of the mat equaliser rolls," said Mr Steffen.

A new product for Siempelkamp in the particleboard arena is the EcoFormer SL, for surface layers. While still employing the same wind speed across the forming chamber, the new former has a much better air-flow profile, left to right and top to bottom.

"We simulated the process using a CFD program from our nuclear industry division and modeled the system with them," said Mr Wissing. "We discovered a 50% material saving and a 75% better air flow profile, leading to an estimated 3% material saving and a 70% energy saving and the system is also much easier to clean. The EcoFormer SL has four fans per chamber and these are frequency-controlled."

The first plant equipped with the EcoFormer SL started production successfully at Uvadrev, Russia at the beginning of 2015, said Mr Steffen.

Another new product from the Krefeld machinery maker is the ContiBooster. This is a steam injection system positioned in front of the ContiRoll press, right inside the infeed area. It is claimed to offer a 15% capacity increase and is fully integrated into the drive control and safety concept and offers stability even under harsh winter conditions. Three further lines had been sold at the time of my visit to Siempelkamp’s offices.

Although not a new machine, the EcoResinator for MDF offers a 15% glue saving. It comes as a ‘plug-and-play’ system, in one module, to replace an existing blowline.

"We have invested a lot in resin saving because of the cost savings available and this is so important to our customers these days," said Mr Steffen.

SicoScan and Prod-IQ control systems have been around for some time and Siempelkamp is now extending its ‘Prod-IQ Quality’.

"We wanted to predict the quality of the panel, based on production parameters, and to connect the board quality to the laboratory data to give a multi-disciplinary correlation between all the statistics on the line, thus leading to a prediction of quality," said Mr Steffen. "Our statistical models proved very accurate for predicting quality.

Currently, normal practice is that one sample is sent to the lab per shift and the result typically comes back during the next shift.

However, with this data system we have the information as the board leaves the press – and with a high degree of accuracy. Thus we can then use this data on the line to set the panel quality with minimum overspecification and so save our customers money."

The next stage in this process is to "close the loop", Mr Steffen explained, creating the self-optimising plant.

This ‘Prod-IQ Next’ was presented at Ligna 2015 and is intended to be fully launched in 2017.

Sicoscan is one of the tools used to input data to the system from all the measuring devices on the line and is being developed with partner company Electronic Wood Systems (EWS) of Hameln, Germany, in which Siempelkamp holds shares.

Siempelkamp group company Sicoplan engineers, designs and commissions the panel plants which Siempelkamp supplies.

It works with the customers using 3-D technology such that the customer can rotate the images on the computer screen, zoom in and out and even move equipment around, such as silos, if they wish. If the customer double-clicks with his mouse on any component of the plant in the on screen 3-D image, the data for that component appears in a pop-up on the screen.

"Once the final design of the plant is agreed, Sicoplan can generate 2-D drawings for on-site work," explained Mr Steffen.

In common with a number of other machinery suppliers to the panel industry, Siempelkamp has had a stronger-thanexpected year for sales in 2015, in spite of difficulties in what were, until recently, very strong markets.

China, Russia and Brazil were booming markets in past years, whereas today, these countries are suffering an economic decline. However, one line is currently being installed at a western European customer’s site in Gagarin in Russia, while Yildiz Entegre of Turkey just ordered a new MDF line from Siempelkamp. This is to be installed at a new site in Russia. Obviously, these clients are not paying for their lines in rubles, which helps.

In Brazil, another country with economic problems at present, Siempelkamp currently has two projects under installation: Berneck particleboard and Guararapes MDF. Asperbras MDF will follow in 2016. Siempelkamp was also expecting another one or two contracts in Brazil by the end of this year (2015).

"We can also help customers with obtaining attractive financing for their projects, anywhere in the world," said Mr Wissing. "Bankers generally prefer to have one responsible contractor for the whole line and we are able to offer everything from our own resources."