I think it is fair to say that expectations of the 1,324 exhibitors were not high as they set up their booths at this year’s IWF exhibition. One would have to have been living in a cave on a remote island somewhere not to have realised that the US economy is in trouble and that the housing market there is particularly dire. The consequences of that for the panel manufacturing/processing industry do not, of course, need explaining.
It was thus no surprise to anybody that the first day of the show, and particularly the morning of that day, found relatively few visitors walking the massive
exhibition halls of the Georgia World Congress Centre.
It did not get a lot better during the next three days either, although the show’s organisers say that “buyers came from 80 countries”.
However, as we have said many times, it is quality not quantity that counts and most exhibitors seemed of the opinion that the quality of visitors to their booths was good. Some in fact reported being very busy on all days of the show. Productively busy, not just chatting.
Many of North America’s panel manufacturers exhibited at this major national show and just about all of them concentrated on environmental issues. The word ‘green’ was everywhere. This is not surprising given the imminent arrival of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations on formaldehyde emissions from their products. But it was more than just formaldehyde. All were anxious to promote their environmental credentials in terms of wood supply as well, with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) being very commonly-found acronyms.
Temple Inland of Texas offered its recently-launched UltraStock-Free MDF with no added formaldehyde. Ultra-Stock includes ‘Select’ panels for maximum machinability, ‘Premium’ for maximum productivity and ‘Lite’, a panel up to 15% lighter than the company’s conventional MDF.
Temple Inland’s Temstock particleboard range has also added Temstock Free to its range of Temstock-S (for strength), -B for maximum productivity and -W for lighter weight.
Moisture resistant (MR) particleboard and MDF are also available.
Norbord was also offering MR grade and ultra-light MDF and featured FreshPly hardwood plywood with no added F-word (formaldehyde of course).
Plum Creek proclaimed that “Green has never looked so goodand offered GlacierGreen MDF/HDF and GlacierClear ‘Green-Building’ compliant MDF/HDF. These employ EcoBind™ Resin Technologies to achieve “ultra-low emission levels”.
Roseburg Forest Products also shouted the ‘green’ message loud and clear with its Green Products Guide booklet listing its Hybrid Green panels in MDF, particleboard, veneer core and plywood. It also boasted FSC chain-of-custody certification and offered a wide range of melamine decorative surfaces.
SierraPine was also offering no-added-formaldehyde MDF and particleboard and FSC-certified panels.
Uniboard’s Nu Green is EPP (Environmentally Preferred Product) certified and made from 100% post-industrial wood fibre, as well as having no added formaldehyde. Think green. Change the market was the slogan.
On August 1, Uniboard acquired a facility in Moncure, North Carolina, and plans to install a new MDF mill there in the coming year with a 10ft wide continuous press.
Arauco of Chile has a sales office in Atlanta through which it sells lumber, panel products, pulp and millwork. AraucoPly radiata pine plywood is available in several speciality grades and Trupan Ultralight MDF is also imported, together with the company’s wet process hardboard which has seen something of a market renaissance. It has the Certfor Chilean government seal of approval and PEFC certification.
This is just a sample of the many panel manufacturers exhibiting at IWF 2008.
Turning to the machinery/service suppliers, press plate maker Kings Mountain International’s Gary O’Neal said the company had enjoyed a very busy show with five out 10 visitors to the stand being involved in laminate flooring. These customers were mostly looking for differentiation to boost their sales in 2009.
“We are excited about where we are in the marketplace as the only totally integrated press plate manufacturer in the western hemisphere and one of only five worldwide,said Mr O’Neal.
Flamex Inc’s Ole Sorensen said that his company was extremely busy, particularly following a major explosion at a sugar factory in the US in February, which raised awareness of the danger of dust explosions everywhere. Flamex’s spark detection and extinguishing systems are thus finding outlets in a range of industries as well as panels.
EWS North America was promoting its new weight-per-unit-area gauge Conti-Scale to be installed after the press as a non-contact traversing system, among its other on-the-line quality control and safety systems.
Andy Clarke of Clarke’s International Inc said his company was currently very busy and that business was very good, especially on the western side of the US. The company was particularly promoting its spark detection/extinguishing system PyroGuard, along with its high-speed abort gates and back-flow dampers.
Western Pneumatics Inc’s owner Bruce Livesay said the company was increasing its international business and had sold three of its Primary Oscillating Pulse Filters to Russia. This is a patented system to remove dust from exhaust streams.
Pentec International Inc of Marrietta, Georgia, is working together with Modul Systeme of Germany in the supply of secondhand reconditioned machinery, specialising in panels, and both companies exhibited, on adjacent booths.
Bruks Rockwood Inc was a new name at the show. The Bruks bit is familiar enough as a supplier of chipping and screening equipment to the panel and biomass industries.
It acquired Rockwood Materials Handling earlier this year, which specialises in tilting truck dumpers and ship loaders.
Arclin of Moncure, North Carolina was a new name at the show, though the original company would be familiar to most. Formed from Dynea North America Inc in a buyout headed by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in July 2007, Arclin has plants in the US, Canada and Mexico producing overlays and resins and has developed a range of ‘green’ products.
Fezer came from Brazil to promote its equipment for the veneer and plywood industries. The company is inevitably finding the North American market slow currently, but is doing well in Russia and other eastern European countries.
Press plate maker Sesa of Italy was promoting its “ability to design textures to enhance decors, working with customers to design value-added features for decorative laminates”.
Imeas Inc, also headquartered in Italy, opened a new office in June last year in Peachtree City, Georgia.
“Our metal grinding business is excellent in the US, although the panel business here is currently dead,said Imeas Inc president Nathan Rutherford.
Imal and Pal, again from Italy, shared a booth adjacent to Siempelkamp. Imal’s Stefano Benedetti said the firm’s mechanical blending system for MDF was attracting a lot of interest. The pallet blocks/stringers manufacturing line offered by Imal is also increasingly popular in the US, he said.
Alessandro Marcolin of Pal said the company has a big recycled wood cleaning operation at SierraPine in California and he saw a big future for recycling in the US.
Siempelkamp reported good progress in sales since it took over Metso’s energy system business and was also promoting its Generation 8 ContiRoll continuous press.
GreCon Inc’s Bob Barnum was exhibiting the German-headquartered company’s range of measuring and spark detection equipment, with the former chiefly going to the panel market.
Since January this year, Hueck press plates has been joined with Rheinische press pads. Hueck showed a number of bold new design ideas for its engraved/embossed plates.
Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery (SWPM) is a familiar company at all international exhibitions these days, although it has yet to break into the North American market.
Vits of Germany, famous for its paper impregnation lines, reported that is to launch a powder coating line for powder lacquering of wood based panels.
Dieffenbacher of Germany was able to announce its long-term agreement with the Teaford Company Inc of Alpharetta, Georgia to market, sell and manufacture dryers, Swiss Combi systems and heat energy systems for North and Central America.
Sandvik Hindrichs-Auffermann was displaying a range of press plate textures including woodgrains, leather and ‘hand-scraped’ wood. Regional sales manager Daniela Haarhaus said fabric designs are popular in the US at present.
Italian saw maker Giben won the Challengers Award at IWF for the second time, having won it in 2000 as well.
This year the company won the award for the Giben ZERO system. Lorenzo Galletti, projects director, explained that the basis of the system is that the saw motors do not move with the saw but are located in the base of the machine with toothed belt drives to the saws. This is claimed to dramatically reduce vibration and enable the use of a thinner saw blade. Giben was also promoting its Super Thin Loading Device for very thin panels.
B Maier had interest shown in its two-stage OSB flaking process and its wood-plastic composites system.
Sia Abrasives imports abrasive belts from its Swiss factory and converts them in its facility in Charlotte North Carolina. It launched its Top Tec dust-free belt in North America last year.
Metso may have sold part of its operations to Siempelkamp and Dieffenbacher, but that has left the company free to concentrate on its latest EVO refiners and its debarkers, screens, silos and chip washing. It also of course supplies refiner segments and offers a complete service and maintenance operation worldwide.
There were a number of exhibitors notable by their absence at IWF this year, perhaps reflecting the economic hard times in the US, or the fact that with so many exhibitions globally these days, hard decisions have to be made. The increasingly highly-regarded Lesdrevmarsh fair in Moscow two weeks after IWF may have been a contributing factor too.  n