The mood of this year’s Ligna exhibition was very positive, with good visitor numbers – said by the organisers to be 90,000 – including a 26% increase in attendance from abroad compared with 2009, inspiring some 1,765 exhibitors.

This was the 19th biennial edition of Ligna, which is established as the leading global show for the woodworking industries.

Each edition focuses on a particular aspect and taking the foremost position this year was the trend towards lightweight construction: to not only save raw material, but also to make more easily-portable furniture.

Bioenergy – producing energy from wood – was another strong theme, though panel makers might be expected to show less enthusiasm for an industry which competes for its wood raw material!

Hall 27 was the centre for suppliers focusing on the panel manufacturing industry, while some panel processors chose other halls.

Beginning with some of the latter companies, Austrian saw maker Schelling took a place in Hall 26 on the large ‘IMA network’ area, which brought together three separate independent companies including Schelling, which mainly showed its panel beam saws for the furniture industry. However, the company was of course also promoting its large angular systems for the primary panel manufacturing industry, which generated a lot of interest.

Wemhöner Surface Technologies was also in Hall 26 and its main focus was on digital printing and curved cabinet doors for 3-D lamination. “Membrane vacuum lamination is a big issue now – there is a lot of demand for curved doors,said Wemhöner’s Detlef Hanel. In the meantime, Turkey continues a strong market for the company’s short-cycle presses and for 3-D lamination and lightweight panels.

The company had a difficult 2009, like most, but is expecting a 51% increase in turnover this year over 2010.

In Hall 24, German giant chemical company BASF promoted a system for lightweight particleboard using standard urea resin with a foamed polymer replacing some of the wood. “At the end of its life, it can be burnt or recycled into particleboard production,said Dr Stephen Weinkötz. “The business model is to sell the technology worldwide and charge a license fee.”

In the outdoor area between the exhibition halls, crane maker Sennebogen displayed its latest machines with its signature elevating cabs and long-reach high-weight-capacity jib systems. The company also featured its rapid-change system for coupling tools to the end of the jib.

GreCon held a press conference to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company as Fagus. The first stone for its factory was laid on May 29th 1911.

Launched at Ligna was GreCon’s latest fire prevention system, featuring user-friendly touch screen technology rather like an iPad.

Also new was CONTILOG. A small electronic chip is embedded in the centre of the mat before pressing and this records temperature and gas pressure data during pressing. This is then transmitted wirelessly to the control panel for instant press optimisation.

The SuperScan family now includes scanning of raw boards, surfaced panels and for fibre sizes.

The ultra-high-speed spark extinguisher BS7 UHS was demonstrated by GreCon.

Its Dieffensor has sold 60 units in its six-year life and allows measurement of the weight distribution in a mat as well as detecting any foreign bodies, glue lumps etc.

Siempelkamp launched its new Generation 8 edition of its world-famous ContiRoll continuous press for panel manufacture. The company claims this new generation offers up to 15% savings in resin. The press has a brand new pressure distribution plate between the platens and the frame and this prevents the

‘waves’ of pressure at and between the press frames which can lead to glue bridges, wasting resin.

The new ContiRoll also has more cylinders to give improved pressure distribution, while new additional pull-back cylinders on the upper platen give improved steam escape and thus better board edges. As an option, these cylinders can also be installed two-thirds of the way down the length of the press if the customer wants to make lower-density board.

Siempelkamp also launched its Ecoresinator at the show. This is an MDF resin blending system which is also claimed to save up to 15% of resin in a blowline system. It employs special nozzles from the company Schlick and the use of super-heated steam.

Using the expertise of group companies Hombak and CMC Texpan, Siempelkamp now offers complete front-ends to panel plants.

Also new at the show was the SCP KT700 high pressure short-cycle press for deep embossing purposes.

Sia of Switzerland offered its range of abrasives and the Siaslide pad system.

Electronic Wood Systems and the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ were enthusiastic about this year’s Ligna. EWS promoted three new blow detection systems on its stand: Ply-Scan, Blow-Scan and Conti-Sound. The first, as its name suggests, is specifically designed to detect defects in plywood. The second is for particleboard, MDF and OSB on multi-opening press lines. The third is a bond analyser with a sound picture which EWS says gives more information about panel quality.

New at the show as a prototype was the latest generation spark extinguishing system, with optimised detection technology, reduced water use through a more efficient nozzle, a new easy-operation control cabinet system and a new site box system giving 50% reduction in cabling. EWS also claims reduced installation cost for the new equipment.

Electronic Wood Systems will move into its brand new, energy neutral factory building in Hameln at the end of this year.

Dieffenbacher reported a very good year financially in 2010, with incoming orders for Business unit Wood including 30 production lines ordered since last October. Twenty two of these were continuous (10 being 4ft lines from SWPM in Shanghai) and eight single/multi-opening press lines.

“We came out of the crisis of 2009/10 better than we expected,said company president Wolf-Gerd Dieffenbacher. “we saw a drastic decrease in orders in mid-2008 and some orders cancelled or put on hold – even after we had received the down-payment. The improvement in orders began in second half-2010. We have not laid anybody off but used the available time for new developments and product improvements.

“We are happy with our situation and our workload is sufficient to carry us through 2012 and in some areas even into 2013,added Mr Dieffenbacher.

He also said that SWPM had a €35m turnover when bought by Dieffenbacher and now it is over €100m.

New projects for the company include a 55.5m x 8ft 375,000m3/year CPS for Kastamonu of Turkey; a 53m x 2800mm 550,000m3 OSB press for Kronospan in Russia; and a thin HDF line for Unid in Korea (24.5m x 2650mm, 290,000m3/year).

Oris LLC of Russia also reinstated its order for an OSB line with a 63.7m press and 500,000m3/year capacity, while Sumitomo in Vietnam ordered a 24.5m x 2650mm, 800m3/day particleboard line.

New products promoted by the company at Ligna included Evojet dry resin blending system, Projet optimised blowline blending and technology for insulation board plants.

A revelation was the Ecopulser, which uses ultrasonic waves to break down wood material and a direct digital printing line, a prototype of which is to be installed in Homanit’s factory any day now.

Methylene Diphenyl Di-isocyanate (MDI) supplier Huntsman unveiled a brand new product developed to offer MDF producers “even more benefitswhen it comes to production speed and line capability. It is called I-BOND EMFC 4332.

Delivering a line speed increase of 10 to 15% compared to current E-MDI resin products, Huntsman says this resin further closes the gap between MDI and traditional MUF (melamine urea formaldehyde) resins.

“This new launch comes at a time when the market for MDI resins is continuing to pick up pace as more and more composite wood panel producers realise the benefits this technology has to offer,said Iain Stanton of Huntsman. “Competitively priced when compared on a cost per usage basis, E-MDI resins are widely considered as the ‘no-added formaldehyde’ option, providing the ideal solution to meeting the ever-more-stringent legislation coming into play that restrict the levels of formaldehyde emitted from panels.”

The company also announced two new release agents for OSB when using MDI binders.

Andritz of Austria reported a very busy show – and that it had sold as much in the first few months of 2011 as in all of 2010. The company said that energy saving is the main topic now, with reduced steam consumption.

Plywood machinery expert Raute of Finland is another company that has seen an upturn in orders and in January this year received a contract for two peeling and two drying lines for Ilim Timber in Bratsk, Russia. Raute has a number of other interesting potential projects under discussion, said Mr Tapani Kiiski.

Specialist in transport systems, SHW of Germany, launched its U-Tube in 2010. This is a belt conveyor in a closed system, which removes dust and reduces noise, while having none of the wear problems of chain conveyors. It can operate on inclines of up to 30o.

Simone Ilg of SHW reported a lot of interest in this and its silo discharge systems.

Daniel James of paper impregnation line maker Vits Technology of Germany said it had sold 20 lines in the last 12 months.

One of its Highline lines in Turkey is regularly sheeting at 100m/min, he said.

The first line in the world with a fully-automated rewinder is due to start production in the first quarter of 2012 in Australia.

“We have changed and streamlined our technical department and can now put a standard line into production in one week,said Mr James.

Meanwhile, sister company IFA has new resin reactors and mixing systems for particleboard lines.

Production at Vits was already booked to February 2012 at the time of the Ligna show.

Stainless steel belt and press plate maker Sandvik reported two orders taken at Ligna in the first two days – one from France and one from Spain. The company has also entered India with steel belts for two Dieffenbacher continuous press panel mill projects.

This is the company’s 110th year of steel belt production and it used Ligna to focus on its service and technical support functions as well as its products.

Scheuch of Austria reported a very successful show and a lot of interest in its “technology for clean air”.

New at the show was its fire and explosion protection for stationary extraction plants.

Vyncke of Belgium reported having orders in hand for 12 months for its energy plants, with projects worldwide. Around half the company’s turnover goes to panel plants and the rest to the agricultural industry and electrical power generation. It also has a factory in Suzhou in China.

Stainless steel belt maker for continuous presses, Berndorf Band of Austria, launched an uprated version of its Belt Manager software at Ligna in which the customer gets an overview of all his belts on the one system, detailing any damage or distortion and can add his own photos if desired.

Berndorf also launched its mobile training centre in a container of 2.6 x 1.8m.

Argos Solutions of Norway announced its new panel repair system for plywood. The scanner finds defects and one, two or three repair stations router out those defects and apply putty in a fully automatic system.

Argos also offers scanners for surface defects in raw or decorative panels.

Resin supplier Dynea had a demonstration of its new formaldehyde emission measuring system on its stand and said that its series of formaldehyde based resins named AsWood use scavengers to reduce the formaldehyde emission level to 10 parts per billion.

Italy was as always well-represented at Ligna and a well-known company from that country is Imal-Pal, which doubled its turnover in 2010 and entered the business of supplying complete panel plants.

Chief executive Loris Zanasi said he had sold two online density profile machines at the show, as well as four glue blenders and one Dynasteam steam injection system for increasing capacity in continuous pressing. Imal also promoted its new OSB gluing system.

Sister company Pal sold two oscillating screens and one roller screen during Ligna, as well as signing a contract for a particleboard silo extractor and roller screens with a Chinese customer.

On a large Italian Piazza-styled stand, GET srl represented EMG with its panel mill handling systems, Trasmec with its chip and dust transport systems, Imeas with its wide-belt sanders, Globus with its wood size-reduction machinery, Claber with its water cleaning systems, OMAR with its dust exhaust systems. ITI Engineering with its energy plants and CMP with plant erection services.

Imeas promoted its new Full Control System for sanding lines which can also be retro-fitted to existing sanding lines.

Another Italian company, Tocchio, promoted its paper impregnation and coating lines and reported a strong upturn in business since the dark days of 2009.

Instalmec presented its cleaning system for recycled wood with 95% guaranteed cleaning efficiency as well as its drying, suction and de-dusting plants, pollutant separators and Low Pressure Drop cyclones.

Cermat, another exhibitor from Italy, specialises in the refurbishment of size-reduction machinery and reported a good order file for 2011.

Metso reported it had sold 13 refiners for MDF during 2010 – a record for the company. Latest orders include two refiners for Duratex of Brazil, while Kastamonu of Turkey bought the first EVO 70in refiner. New at Ligna was the company’s EasyBarker rotary debarker, which takes bundles of logs and is specially designed to handle stringy bark.

Merritt Machinery from the US promoted its new flitch cleaner and its vacuum tables for sliced veneer while also promoting Meinan of Japan’s range of veneer rotary lathes.

NTL Chemicals of Greece said it had recently closed contracts for its resin technology in Russia and Colombia.

Momentive Specialty Chemicals Inc (formerly Hexion) showcased its expanded line of EcoBind low-emission resins based on low-emitting amino resins, no-added-formaldehyde resins and scavenger-resin based systems.

On the Leitz booth, new tooling products were displayed: Diamaster PRO3 and DiamasterPLUS3, were two new diamond router programmes to facilitate constant cutting quality with significantly higher feed speeds and longer performance times.

Leitz’s coatings, specially tailored to wood processing, increase the performance life of high performance steel and tungsten carbide tools, says the company. The Rip-Tec method of corrugated edges increases the process safety in laminate processing, says Leitz.

After the downbeat, depressing atmosphere of Ligna 2009, this year’s show was a total contrast. All the exhibitors seemed very pleased with the steady flow of qualified visitors, many of whom seemed to have money to spend on live projects.

With many suppliers’ order books full into 2012 and beyond, things certainly look a lot more promising than they did two years ago and it seems the industry can now look ahead to better times.

It is also good to see that the vast majority of supplier companies have survived those difficult times and are ready to face a brighter future.