The two constituent companies of the Imal Pal group had rather different experiences during the economic downturn.

While Pal srl of Ponte di Piave saw sales jump by 10% between 2008 and 2009, Imal srl of Modena found itself in a very quiet period of sales in the latter half of 2009.
“Now we have an order book for the group worth €103m and growing,said an enthusiastic Loris Zanasi, managing director of Imal Pal Group, inModena in June. 
The group now employs some 250 and has greatly increased the product range. 
The original expertise of the two constituent companies is retained, with Imalspecialising more in the electronics side, such as quality control on the line and in the laboratory, and its mechanical dry fibre glue blending system, as well as some new products covered later, while Pal handles the more mechanical operations such as wood preparation and cleaning and screening, flaking and refining for particleboard mills. 
The two companies share some facilities, such as the mechanical workshop where heavy components are fabricated. This factory was also equipped two years ago with a heavy-duty bending machine capable of bending thick stainless steel for the manufacture of the shells for glue blenders, for example. It also has a 10m long grinding machine capable of grinding press plates; and a robot welding facility.  
Meanwhile, Pal has what the group claims is a facility unique in the world, in the form of its Ponte di Piave laboratory for testing all kinds of raw material, especially recycled wood, for use in panel making.  
With the exception of the glue blender and laboratory press, all the equipment in the laboratory is full-scale, thus enabling real-situation testing to be carried out on wood  preparation, drying, forming, pressing and all kinds of chip cleaning solutions. 
Pal also has several people dedicated to research and development (R&D) and this  team normally produces two or three patents per year, according to managing director Antonio dal Ben.  
In China, the group supplied a large installation for recycled wood including crusher, chip cleaning, screening, sifting and a specially-developed new forming station for a new kind of panel developed in Pal’s  laboratory. This has a particleboard core with MDF faces. The faces will be made using dust collected from other mills.  Gluing will be by Imal. 
There are two more orders imminent from China. One is for an MDF line and one a “special OSBline – another product researched and developed in Pal’s laboratory.    
The Chinese customers will source Chinese-made multi-opening presses for their lines and Imal Pal will carry out the engineering for the projects.  
“We have a very good market in China where we are supporting a lot of customers with our technology,said Mr dal Ben. “We also have a good market in South America, with  many customers.”   
Imal Pal is supplying a complete 1,000m3 a day particleboard line to Argentina, from logyard to forming station, including debarking and chipping, refining, intermediate storage, boiler, energy plant, complete dry area including dryer, gluing and all suction systems. Electrical controls are also included in this contract.  
Last year, for Eucatex, Pal doubled the cleaning capacity for recycled wood for a new MDF line, including all suction systems, while Imal supplied the glue system.  
In Europe, the company has supplied four recycled wood systems to France this year: to Kronofrance, Depalor and CFP.  
Pal has also combined much of its recycling technology into the Cleaning Tower, a five storey structure which has roller screen, eddy current separator, chip cleaner, magnet and so on in one ‘unit’. This saves energy by employing gravity to transfer the chips through each process.   
“In the laboratory we tested the best machine for each job in the Tower. Contaminated material goes in the top and clean material comes out of the bottom into bins for different fractions,said Mr Zanasi.   
While admitting that the western European market is generally not so good at present,Mr dal Ben said his company had received a lot of orders recently for upgrading existing mills. “we have a lot of knowledge in increasing capacity and quality and in reducing maintenance costs.    
“Our next target as Imal Pal is to supply complete plants, including dryer, boiler and everything after the press. We are financially strong and will become the third force as a complete line supplier,said Mr dal Ben.    
But the Imal Pal Group has its sights set to a new height.  “Siempelkamp and Dieffenbacher are each offering everything from one source,said Mr Zanasi.   
“We have no choice in the circumstances but to offer the same singlesource approach.” Imal Pal has thus entered into an agreement with a Chinese company already specialized in press manufacture to fabricate parts of their own Imal Pal continuous press in China. This will be known as the Dynapress and the formers, constructed by Pal, will be known as Dynaformers.  
Two continuous presses have already been sold to Chinese customers, with Imal supplying the whole press line, with electronic and software controls and quality control equipment.Meanwhile Pal had, by June, received 13 orders for its Dynaformers for OSB, particleboard andMDF.  
“At the same time, we are setting up the Panel Alliance Team (PAT) involving a  number of experienced companies and we have already sold a plant to Cuyoplacas in  Argentina for 1,000m3 a day of particleboard,addedMr Zanasi.
That contract includes Pal, Imal, Recalor of Spain for the dryer and Vyncke of Belgium for the energy plant.
“Everything before the former was sold by PAT with Imal Pal as the main supplier.
Each company within PAT presents its lowest price to the customer directly, but PAT facilitates our being more competitive in the market place,said Mr Zanasi.
Imal has another major new product, which Mr Zanasi described as a key point for the company’s future. 
Called the Dynasteam, this is a steam injection unit which can be installed before the continuous press, with its belts speedsynchronised with those of the press. The Dynasteam injects saturated steam into the bottom of the mat and is designed to be used in conjunction with the Imal TS100 mat spray, which sprays water onto the top of the mat. This water turns into steam when it comes into contact with the hot press plates to balance out the steam injected into the bottom layer. The system does not add moisture to the mat, said Mr Zanasi. The target is to increase mat temperature  by at least 30oC to achieve faster press times and thus increased pressing capacity, claimed to be 15-20%. There is a patent pending for Dynasteam.
Other new products from Imal include an electronic gel timer to test resin setting  times and a formaldehyde emission measurement chamber (GA717-2), which complies  with EN717-2 and enables the rapid measurement of formaldehyde release from panel samples. It is available in two sizes – for two or four samples.
While many exhibitors found the Xylexpo exhibition in  Milan in May to be quiet, Imal secured, at the show, a confirmed order for quality control equipment valued at one million euros. So in Imal Pal we have a dynamic group which intends to take on the biggest singlesource system suppliers in the world.