Bischweier in southern Germany has been home to a panel manufacturing business for just over 40 years, having started particleboard production in 1968 as Gruber + Weber.
In 2001 the factory became fully a part of Kronospan Holdings GmbH and since then the group has poured a lot of money into the site to bring it in line with the group philosophy of efficiency in making the right product for the
right market.
It all began with a multi-opening press line producing particleboard which
could be laminated in a melamine-facing press line.
Family-owned business Gruber + Weber invested in its factory over the years, adding more short-cycle pressing capacity in 1983 and 1993 and additional warehousing in 1998 – a building also intended to house a new cut-to-size plant which was never realised.
The factory closed down in 2001 and was then bought by Kronospan, which restarted particleboard production in January 2002 on the original 10-opening hot press. Production capacity was then 360,000m3 a year.
In the following year, after a lengthy process to obtain the necessary planning permission, the new owners erected a new factory building on the site and installed a Dieffenbacher CPS continuous press line with a new chipping line, screening line and sifters.
The new press was 42.8m long and 2.4m wide and had an initial annual production of 400,000m3.
As the new line started production in August 2003, the old multi-daylight line – also by Dieffenbacher – was closed down; the two lines did not run simultaneously.
Investment continued in 2006 with the installation of a new Schelling panel sawing plant. This produces cut-to-size panels in both raw and melamine faced board and has a capacity of 120,000m3/year.
A short-cycle press line was also brought from Worms in Germany and refurbished and installed at Bischweier, fitted with new electronic controls and wear parts.
The refurbished line in fact comprised two short-cycle presses alongside each other and was originally by Dieffenbacher. The presses were modified and upgraded by Wemhöner.
In a separate building, there is also a Wemhöner short-cycle line from 1994/5.
These three presses together gave the Bischweier operation a surfacing capacity of 24 million m2/year in 2007.
Attention turned again to the Dieffenbacher CPS particleboard line in 2007 when preparations began to increase the line’s annual capacity to 850,000m3.
The equipment installed in 2003 had been designed to anticipate this increase in capacity but a new log yard was required, together with a new chipping line, extended screening facilities and new chip silos.
“Wet chip preparation was completely modified, including the moving floors,said Oliver Lauer of Bischweier’s technical department.
A new dryer was also added and this was equipped with the latest emissions-cleaning technology in a ‘UTWS’ System; this employs a heat exchanger, dry electric filter and other technology developed by Kronospan to eliminate dust, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odours.
To increase thermal oil heating capacity for the longer press, a new gas-powered heat exchanger was installed. The company has modified the combustion chamber from the old dryer in order to use that to heat the thermal oil.
In general, Bischweier aims to generate 90% of its energy by burning waste wood.
In order to meet the 850,000m3 capacity target, the continuous press was extended to 52.8m. This was accomplished during the month of July 2008, with removal of the old equipment, installation of the new and extending the press all being completed in one month.
The new warehouse built around the same time incorporates two railway sidings for shipping the company’s production out and for bringing resins in from Kronospan’s Lampertswalde plant and from the BASF factory in Ludwigshafen.
A large part of the site was still undeveloped when Kronospan bought it and there was thus ample room for the company to execute its expansion plans.
Bischweier is in the Black Forest area and there is thus a good wood supply, explained Mr Lauer. Sawmill slabs and small roundwood come from a 100km radius and all Bischweier’s wood supply is certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) standards.
However, there is some problem caused by the rush to biomass energy production, Mr Lauer admitted.
“Pellet producers are competing for the wood supply and some even utilise logs because the biomass energy business is subsidised,he said.
Chipping employs one Bruks Klöckner 1500kW chipper with a two metre diameter rotor and Bischweier’s chips are sorted into one of three compartments in the chip store, which has a moving floor, according to categories of softwood, hardwood or mixed. The chips are allocated to a compartment from the chipper area control room. This enables some
tailoring of boards to particular
customer requirements.
The sawdust silos are enormous, at 25m in diameter, and with a capacity of 9,000m3 each.
As part of the stringent planning conditions imposed by the local authority, the chipper hall is lined with special sound-absorbing building blocks.
Covered belt conveyors carry the wet chips to the knife ring flakers and to the dosing silos, thus avoiding release of dust into the atmosphere.
The drum dryer has a drying capacity of approximately 70 tonnes of water evaporation per hour actual and was designed within the Kronospan group.
There are seven Pal of Italy oscillating dry screens and two wind sifters by Schenkmann & Piel of Germany (part of the Dieffenbacher group).
The gluing system is by Imal of Italy and this company also supplied the on-the-line quality control measurement
Forming employs four heads – two for surface and two for core layers.
Minimax supplied the Minifog system which guards the continuous press against fire.
There is a Steinemann Satos 10-head sander to finish the board surfaces.
An underground tunnel is used to take the packs of finished boards under the yard to the new warehouse without risking the outdoor elements.
In the warehouse there is an ingenious stock tracking system in which sensors/transmitters set in the concrete floor ‘talk’ to the fork lift trucks which are connected to the main stock control computer system; the driver scans the label on the pack and the computer tells him where to place it in the warehouse. The same system also enables the driver to locate the correct pack and remove it from stock for a given customer order.
Part of the same sensor system is also used to control the parking of road trucks in the warehouse ready for
Grades of particleboard produced include E1 (with urea formaldehyde resin) and Kronospan’s own ELE (extra low emission) panels, which fall somewhere between E1 and E-zero for formaldehyde emissions. A special melamine urea formaldehyde resin is used to produce the ELE panels.
A certain amount of moisture resistant board is made, mainly for flooring applications, but this is a niche product, said Mr Lauer.
Particleboard thicknesses of 8 to 40mm are produced and most production goes to the furniture industry with customers in France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany forming the main part of the factory’s customer base, although small quantities have also been shipped to China and other parts of Asia.
Since it started its expansion and upgrading plans in 2003, Kronospan has spent in excess of e160m on its Bischweier operation, raising production volumes of both raw particleboard and surfaced boards, improving the quality of production and ensuring compliance with stringent environmental regulations.
Within a 500km radius the factory can access markets from the Netherlands in the north to Genova in the south and from Orléans in the west to Prague in the east, illustrating the Kronospan philosophy of being close to both its chosen markets and to a reliable wood supply.