When we met at Imal-Pal’s headquarters in San Damaso, Modena, in June, Loris Zanasi, ceo of the group, was in characteristically enthusiastic mood.

In 2013, the group saw its highest turnover ever," he said. "That was a very successful year and we expect more for this year – we are forecasting €110m turnover and we already have orders taking us into 2015.

"We have developed several important technologies and they are selling well." One of the core technologies of the group is the Dynasteam, while another is its new high-pressure resination system for particleboard, MDF and OSB production.

"We are unique in the world in using such a high-pressure system for resination in all three [panel types]," said Mr Zanasi.

Development of this system began with MDF and the system operates at 150bar. Such a high pressure requires special nozzles and Imal took on a highly experienced engineer from the automotive industry to design them. "The nozzles use materials that are used in the injectors of Ferrari engines," said Mr Zanasi.

He explained that, in order to maintain a constant pressure, it is necessary to be able to open and close the orifices of the nozzles. Imal thus developed the ‘dynamic injector’, which can maintain constant pressure of the glue during changing inputs of both glue and fibre, to maintain a constant distribution of the resin.

"We have installed 52 systems to date, worldwide, in the last two years or so," said the ceo. "In particular, we have been very successful in six installations we have made in Latin America. A very important Brazilian customer, and MDF producer, said that the Imal MDF Dyna-Hi-Jet high-pressure blowline system took a few hours for commissioning and the next day, the customer saw a 10% reduction in glue consumption. On another line, he had a system from one of our competitors which took four days to get into operation and several months to achieve any results. This customer has ordered other systems for its other MDF lines from us."

Imal has also had success in South East Asia, with one customer immediately ordering a second line after starting up the first, while a second Asian client ordered four further lines after the success of its first one, said Mr Zanasi. This was repeated by a large Malaysian MDF manufacturer who has ordered five Hi-Jet high-pressure blowline fibre gluing systems.

Imal claims resin savings of 10-20% in MDF, with resin crystals reduced to one tenth of normal dimensions by a special refiner, for better distribution. Steam is injected through separate nozzles and the greater turbulence is said to give better resin distribution.

The PB Dyna-Hi-Jet resination system, for particleboard, employs a constant, homogenous, ‘curtain’ of wood particles, created by the action of one or two accelerator rolls mounted at the outfeed of the weighscales. The dosing pump then sprays glue at high pressure onto the particles as they descend, before they enter the blender. Distribution is improved by a special refiner, as for MDF, reducing the size of the resin crystals, thus multiplying the glue surface by about 100 times, says Imal. The resin is then applied at high pressure to coat the entire surface of the wood accurately, thus reducing resin consumption.

This system, says the company, reduces the amount of resin ‘lost’ to fines by distributing it in relation to the surface area of the particles.

Other advantages claimed are that resinated particles, not dry ones, enter the blender, making them more flexible and less likely to break; there is less friction and therefore wear in the blender; reduced cooling energy is required; there are no glue lumps; no spinning heads; and compressed air is not required as the glue is atomised at high pressure.

The system consists of a cooled chute, dosing rolls and the high-pressure glue distribution system. It is also ATEX compliant.

One such patented high-pressure particleboard gluing system has already been installed in a Sonae factory in Portugal and this client is already discussing several more systems with Imal, while there are four installations under way with separate customers in Europe.

For OSB, a similar system is being supplied to two new large plants in eastern Europe – one in Russia and the other in Poland.

The other major product developed by Imal, as mentioned earlier, is the Dynasteam, which is a system that injects super-heated dry steam into the fibre mat immediately before the press, without causing any condensation which could mark the surface of the boards. For this, the standard feed belt of the line is replaced with a special perforated belt, to allow the steam through to the bottom of the mat.

The company has sold 51 Dynasteams in the three years since its launch, with four of them going into OSB production lines and the rest more or less equally into MDF and particleboard production.

A pre-set amount of steam per area of the mat is injected into the top and bottom of the mat simultaneously as it is fed into the continuous press.

Dynasteam consists of a unit comprising two steam boxes, one above and one below the line, before the continuous press. It is installed in a small space and mounted directly onto the existing structure without the need for any modifications, says Imal.

The principle of the Dynasteam is that the conductivity of the wood is changed, leading to faster curing times and thereby an increase in the production capacity of the line.

The principle results achieved by Dynasteam, says Imal, are: increase in production capacity of between 15 and 30%; reduction in panel over-thickness; easily and instantly modifiable density profile; better, closed, surface density with consequent reduction in amounts of liquid coatings used (20% less lacquer); 25-30% reduction in press belt power absorption and specific pressure, due to less strain on the stainless steel belt, the hot platens and the press chains; and no condensation spots on the mat thanks to a special patent, says the company, by which the first 60mm of steam are transparent and thus dry. Imal also claims a reduction in formaldehyde emissions due to the more compact board surface achieved.

If a panel manufacturer does not wish to increase his capacity, perhaps for market reasons, then instead of increasing the line speed, he can reduce his resin consumption, said Mr Zanasi.

"This is a very special system to inject saturated steam into the top and bottom of the mat to increase the capacity of the press line and to reduce costs," he added. "And we offer a money-back guarantee if the customer is not satisfied for any reason at all. We have total confidence in this product.

"In one installation, in an MDF factory in western Europe, after installing the Dynasteam, the customer decided not to increase line capacity and the consequence was a 15% increase in internal bond and an improved density profile, because the core of the mat reached 100oC much sooner than without the Dynasteam and this also reduced glue input. According to the customer’s own figures, annual resin savings amounted to over a million euros."

Imal-Pal has also entered the market of complete plants, including the company’s own Dynasteam continuous press (see WBPI Aug/ Sep 2013, p46 re I-PAN of Italy).

Recently, Imal-Pal won the contract for a complete MDF line in Vietnam. The line will produce around 400m3/day on a DynaSteamPress continuous press and Imal-Pal will supply everything from logyard to sanding line, including a sander from an outside supplier. Imal will supply all machinery and be responsible for supervision of the installation.

Another area in which the group is active is in the supply of energy plants. It has sold six biomass energy plants in the past few years and recently signed an €8m contract with a customer in Sardinia, Italy, to supply an energy plant with electricity generation. Imal-Pal is now discussing with this client the possibility of using the hot water from the generator to heat dryers for some form of wood based product that has yet to be decided.

"We will purchase the energy plant from a specialist manufacturer, but the client wanted an overall supplier with a broad competence," said Mr Zanasi. Imal-Pal has already placed three contracts for boilers with Vyncke of Belgium.

Yet another development from the group, this time outside the direct field of panel manufacture, is the supply of production lines to make pallet blocks out of wood chips.

"We supplied a project worth over €22m to build the largest pallet block plant in the world," said the ceo. "It will produce 500m3 of blocks a day out of demolition wood, branches and poplar – in fact any kind of wood – and the line will go into production in September 2014."

Other pallet block plants supplied by Imal-Pal have been running for some time in Lithuania, Ireland and Portugal. Another such plant, installed in Germany and operating with 10 extrusion presses, is due to be commissioned shortly.

The group is also involved in pellet production lines for biomass energy production and has supplied the third largest capacity line in the world, in South East Asia, with a capacity of 30 tons/hour. The group has also just concluded a partnership agreement with a major pellet press manufacturer to produce the DynaPelletPress, Imal-Pal Group.

Another area of expertise is in the manufacture and installation of wood fibre insulation board lines.

In the machinery world, Globus srl, a sister company and part of the Imal-Pal group, is a company with a long history in making wood size-reduction equipment, with a full range of flakers, hammermills, refiners and, more recently, stranders for OSB.

Globus claims to have revolutionised chipping with its patented ‘wobble spreader’, which spreads the incoming material evenly over the width of the knives in its high-capacity knife ring flakers (KRF). Capacities reach over 15 tons/hour, dry basis, and many have been sold – often as repeat orders from the same panel maker. The Globus SRC 14-690 is also said to save 30% in power consumption compared to its major rivals.

Globus has been part of the Imal-Pal group since September 2012, adding to its complete line competence from one source.

Globus’ latest development is a cleaning system which sharpens and washes the knives in situ, using a robot to unscrew the knives, transfer them to a sharpening system and then re-fit them to the knife ring flaker, fully automatically.

Of course, Imal still also supplies the laboratory and on-the-line quality control equipment for which it has been famous for well over 40 years.

"Since its establishment, Imal has supplied 7,690 pieces of equipment or systems, among which are 1,560 glue blenders, 954 metering bin scales, 864 glue preparation and dosing systems, 720 thickness gauges, 258 laboratory bench testers, 630 moisture meters and many more," said Mr Zanasi, proudly.

Meanwhile, Pal has supplied a total of 5,077 units, among which are 826 oscillating screens, 395 air sifters and 351 silo extractors."

That is all in addition to the Dynasteam and Dynasteam continuous presses and the Hi-Jet resination systems mentioned earlier.

The Imal-Pal group has begun 2014 with a very positive story in terms of its order book and continues to expand the range of machinery and systems which it offers to the panel manufacturing, and pallet and pellet making, industries worldwide.