WoodMac China, FurniTek China and WoodBuild China were held concurrently at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre over four days at the end of February/beginning of March.

They occupied three modest-sized halls at the back of the grounds and I was not the only attendee to find themselves almost registering for the textile show being held in the front halls. Signposting, while present, was not really adequate.

Suppliers to the panel manufacturing industry were together in one hall and most of those exhibitors, while acknowledging that there was only a small number of visitors, expressed the opinion that they had met some important people – mainly existing clients but also some potential new ones – and that their attendance had been worthwhile.

As is common with Chinese shows, the final day (Friday) was supposed to close at 4pm but dismantling of stands began around noon – not good for those still attempting to have serious business discussions.

Chinese manufacturer of a wide range of panel processing machinery, Sufoma, has its first continuous press for panel production under commissioning in its own factory in Suqian City rather than its main factory in Suizhou, for reasons of space apparently, and intends to launch it on the open market at the end of 2011.

“Investment in the prototype line is 100% Sufoma and when any problems are sorted out, we will go to the market,said Bolton Ji, foreign trade manager. This will be an eight-feet-wide press, aimed at the MDF market.

“Our existing products are mainly for the particleboard, MDF, short-cycle laminating and impregnation markets,said Mr Ji. “As a single machine, our sander is the most famous in China.”

Another Chinese machinery maker even more involved in continuous presses is Yalian Machinery Co Ltd. As we reported in our review of the WM Fair in Beijing last year, this company was originally, and still is, an MDF manufacturer and has its first, four-feet-wide, continuous press operating in one of its own MDF plants.

The Dunhua, Jilin province-headquartered company has now sold seven continuous lines, according to export sales manager Colin Zheng, with three of them having started production since August last year. Those three are four-feet-wide lines.

Of the other four contracts, two are 4ft and two are 8ft wide. All were sold to Chinese companies and six are to produce MDF, while one will produce particleboard. Claimed capacities range from 400 to 750m3 per day MDF and 1000m3 per day for the particleboard line.

The last one of the seven lines is planned to go into production in November this year.

Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd (SWPM) shared a stand with German parent Dieffenbacher.

Mr Zhou Yong, area sales manager, international department, SWPM, said that the show had been OK for them.

“We have sold 18 four feet wide continuous press lines so far, all in Chinasaid Mr Zhou. “We also sold one to Vanachai in Thailand last year, for particleboard.

“We are also still getting interest in our multi-opening press lines – different markets, different presses; and different investment costs.”

A wholly Chinese-owned company since 2008, GTS Energy (Shanghai) Co Ltd has had considerable success in supplying energy systems to the panel industry in China. Reinhold Luthringshauser, chief technical adviser at GTS, said the company has supplied 40 plants so far and that eight of those are currently under construction. He said that WoodMac had been useful, with interesting new contacts from Russia and Italy, as well as China.

“We are starting construction at ADR in Sumatra (a Siempelkamp press line) in April and another for Kichai in Thailand (a Dieffenbacher press line) and we are still quoting for a lot of contracts,said Mr Luthringshauser.

Sandvik Process Systems (Shanghai) Ltd had staff from Europe and its Chinese subsidiary in Shanghai manning its stand and Joyce Shen from the Shanghai office said the show was about showing the company’s brand and new products and not only about looking for new customers.

Regional sales manager Sascha Porst said that he had had discussions with several overseas visitors from countries including Iran, Syria and Spain, as well as Chinese companies of course.

Siempelkamp, which has its own factory in Wuxi, Jiangsu, focused on its four-feet-wide ContiRoll press.

The company says that Asia became the main purchaser of its products in 2010, with China ordering nine press lines, including seven 4ft-wide ContiRolls. Siempelkamp says this smaller model, introduced in 2007, meets the special requirements of Chinese plant operators. One customer from Vietnam also purchased the 4ft model in 2010.

Swiss-headquartered sander manufacturer Steinemann is one company that has benefited from that shift to four-feet-wide production lines, according to vice president of sales, Hansjörg Fritsche.

“The reason we came to China six years ago [as a manufacturer] was because we foresaw the 4ft multi-opening press lines being replaced by 4ft continuous lines and now we have been proved right and we only supply to those continuous lines,said Mr Fritsche.

Steinemann manufactures its 4ft wide sanders in its Chinese factory in Jiading, Shanghai.

“The Chinese companies are also increasingly appreciating service – it is not only the price – and the belt market is also very good for us here with our conversion facilities,said Mr Fritsche.

Jun Yang, sales director at Steinemann Jiading, said he had even received some orders at the show, together with two or three very strong possibilities being discussed.

German-headquartered saw maker Holzma manufactures smaller machines for the furniture industry in its Shanghai factory, while sales and service for all machines is centred on its Beijing office. Norbert Diener, sales manager from Germany, and Qisheng Li from the Beijing office, said they had discussed some new business prospects at the show and that discussions had been 50/50 furniture and panel making markets.

Holzma has supplied some large and sophisticated sanding/sawing lines to China, including one to Sichuan Shengda and another to Fujian Yongan MDF.

Stefano Benedetti of Imal-Pal said he had met the customers he wanted to meet and discussed some new projects – nearly all for particleboard lines. The group offered laboratory systems, on-the-line quality control, spark detection, resin systems and particle preparation.

Berndorf Band’s regional director Federico De La Vega Figueroa was happy with the show and said the company is doing good business in China, with 2010 being a record year.

“We are developing new instruments to reach our customers such as our new product dictionary of steel belts with names, correct usage etc,said Mr Figueroa.

Andritz of Austria has a substantial share of the market for MDF refiners in China, having supplied over 100 machines to date, according to director Thomas Heinemann. If you add in refiners supplied to the pulp and paper industry, it more than doubles that figure, he said.

Wemhöner has a factory in Changzhou, Jiangsu, and focused on its 3D Eagle press which runs with or without a membrane and has proved popular in the Chinese cabinet making industry.

Italian saw maker Giben promoted its panel saws for the primary manufacturing industry, offering machines for cutting-to-size with blade, milling tooling or with more advanced technologies, as well as the processing of the components.

Italy’s Angelo Cremona reported interest in its veneer processing and plywood making machinery from visitors from India, Pakistan and Philippines, as well as China.

Raute from Finland had a brand new machine on its stand.

This all-in-one peeler handles the process from log to rotary clipped veneer in a footprint of 10 x 3m. The machine is also transportable and so could be used in the forest, said Pekka Runonen, who invented the machine, which is aimed at Asian markets and plantation wood.

GreCon reported interest in its quality control and fire prevention systems and the company has a good number of its DMR and UPU systems already in operation in many of China’s continuous production lines. Like others, the company reported interest from the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East among visitors to its stand.

Modul Systeme promoted its new and secondhand refurbished machinery, with interest from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran reported at the show by vice president Wolfgang Garner.

Instalmec of Italy exhibited for the first time in China and sales manager Luca Zappetti reported a lot if interest in the company’s products for drying units, suction and de-dusting plants (filters, WESPs), screens, blenders, dust dosing systems, pollutant separators and pneumatic transport.

Imeas Sanding Manufacturing has a factory in Suzhou making its smaller machines, while its wide-belt sanders are made at its Italian headquarters.

Biele from Spain had a fruitful exhibition, with interest in its handling lines – from door manufacturers and plywood makers in particular.

None of the exhibitors at this year’s WoodMac China were going to say it was a great show. The physical size of the exhibition was greatly reduced compared to 2009 and the visitor numbers were similarly disappointing.

However, it is also fair to say that none of the exhibitors complained strongly, or said it was a waste of time attending. That familiar mantra that it is the quality of visitors and not the quantity that is important was often cited.

Perhaps also relevant to exhibitors’ sanguine attitude is the fact that this is not an expensive show to attend – especially compared with the Beijing event in even years – and offers the exhibitors exposure for their brands and their products in markets that are important to them.