Globus is the Italian maker of chippers and flakers for the panel industry – the machinery that prepares wood before it goes into the mill and press – and as managing director Fabio Paron talks with huge excitement it is clear he is an enthusiast for what the company does.

“What we do is reduce the volume of wood,” he said. “Essentially we produce chippers, flakers and OSB stranders – that is our job.”

Globus is part of Imal/Pal group. Mr Paron clarifies the connections: “Imal does electronics and blending area, Pal does screening, separating, and cleaning the wood. We are the company that cuts the wood – that is how we close the loop.”

At present his excitement is focused on Globus’s new system for sharpening blades in knife rings – the so-called ‘Sharpening Room.’

“It is very new,” said Mr Paron. “We have sold three of them. One is installed in Poland, for Forte; one in Australia, being delivered right now; and one in North America.

“We call it the Sharpening Room because it is not one machine but a set of equipment. Now the market has a single grinding system that handles the whole procedure.

“Before, users had to remove the knives from the ring, one by one, and grind each one manually. Or they had to buy a machine – a tool in effect – and go through that same procedure blade by blade. We strongly believe that what we have is a revolution.”

What is in effect a rotating six-axis robot handles all the stages of the sharpening cycle.

“It demounts the knife from the ring and measures it. Then it puts the knife into the grinder, sharpens it to a pre-set degree to give the proper gap; and after that it puts it back onto the ring. It does all that in one hour; and it also acts as a safe storage for blades,” Mr Paron explained.

Add that it also cleans the blades with high-pressure water and then with compressed air, and you begin to see why Globus calls it a room rather than a machine.

“It sharpens the knives, but more importantly it gives real control of your flaking area. You know the degree of wear of the whole ring, whether one side or the other side is wearing away more quickly.

Or, for example, if I want to set one flaking machine on one gap and three machines on another, I can do it, quickly and simply, via a touch screen,” said Mr Paron. “The energy consumption, the flake thickness, the quality – all can be controlled.”

It is not just sharpening machines that Globus makes but the chipping and flaking machines themselves.

“Of course for particleboard we have our SRC690, which has the longest knife in the world and the latest technology and improvements, which gives it a capacity up to 20 tonnes an hour. This huge volume of flakes is nearly twice as fast as other machines. That makes it very attractive for customers. If you need to produce 1500m3 a day you need only four machines instead of six or seven. We have sold 45 of these machines in the last two years. That is a very important result for us worldwide,” said Mr Paron.

“All in all, 35% of our sales come from existing plants, replacing old machines that were supplied by competitors. When we sell one of our machines the customer sees a 30% reduction in energy per tonne of particleboard. So six months later the customer buys another machine or even three or four. And that is the best recommendation you can have.”

In March, Globus delivered to Borg in Australia the biggest drum chipper it has ever produced: the machine can handle 160 tonnes an hour of dry wood.

“We have invested a lot in improvements in these machines and the results speak for themselves. We have sold five chipping lines in one year! And those lines included vibrator feeders and conveyor belts,” said Mr Paron. Now Globus is developing a complete new knife ring flaker for OSB production.

“Usually you flake for OSB only with a disc strander. Today, we use a knife ring flaker set to a different angle, a gentler one against the wood; therefore we produce micro-strand particles to make the core layer for your board,” explained Mr Paron. “You used to have to use a certain dimension of log for OSB. But now you can use 50% that way and strander with 50% that you can produce with a knife ring and make your core layer that way.

“And it is possible to use recycled wood – and possibly to get paid money to use it. So there is payback for OSB producers in that technology.”

One of these completely new machines is already operating in the UK and a second is being built for another customer in Germany. Despite all the above, cutters and chippers in themselves are not Globus’s absolute priority.

“That lies in the safety and security of the machine,” said Mr Paron, “and machines must be maintained. So we also like to focus on easing the many difficulties of maintenance. And we focus on the operator.

“And there are things like the wear and resistance on the rotor – it gets a lot of impact from blades striking against wood. We have found ways to tackle that.”

Knowledge Growth

Much of Globus’s knowledge was gathered during its origins as a machine servicing company.

“We got our experience working on machines made by other producers in the panel industry, the big companies of that time. So we gained wide experience and we saw defects on every machine that we serviced, so decided to make our own machines. That was in 1988. From a lot of experience on-site we were able to design our machines to be as good as they could be.”

And those designs are constantly evolving. “We have very many ideas. To improve the performance of existing machines is what we like to focus on – and to have something new in our pocket for the future,” said Mr Paron.

“And of course we need people – people are where ideas come from. Without people you can do nothing. For example we are employing engineers to design a drum debarker coming from the paper industry – paper technology is similar to that for MDF. So investing in people is something else that we do. We are a young company of young people. I am 62, but the average age of our staff is 35. At our headquarters at Galliate outside Milan we have 15 people who are under 30 years old, and that is out of a total of 50 who work at the site.”

And that workforce is being kept busy, as Globus has 12-15 new enquiries and projects on the go at the moment. “Many of them originated from Ligna, which is a most important event for us. I am sure that we will get at least 50% of them,” said Mr Paron.

Globus’s turnover has been increasing by 25% a year over the past five years and last year it was €10m. With those 12-15 enquiries and projects under way, it seems set to continue on that path.