The three concurrent exhibitions were held between March 20-23 in three halls at the Pudong expo grounds, although one of those ‘halls’ was a temporary marquee-type tent structure outside the main exhibition buildings. Total exhibition area was stated as 27,000m2.

A seminar programme ran for three of the four days of the exhibition, although in fact the exhibition was reduced to nearer three-and-a-half days as packing up of the stands commenced soon after lunch time on the final Friday, even though it was not scheduled to close until 4pm.

The organisers, China International Exhibitions Ltd, part of the Allworld Exhibitions Alliance, claim that 16,946 ‘qualified visitors’ passed through the gates during the fair, 13% of whom were from overseas. There were 340 exhibiting companies from 16 countries and regions.

Several of the exhibitors interviewed for this report said that they had met potential customers from South East Asia, South Asia, Russia and the Middle East (notably Iran) as well as customers in China and most seemed pleased with the show.

Shanghai Wood Based Panel Machinery Co Ltd (SWPM), exhibiting with the other Chinese suppliers in Hall 4, felt the show had been worthwhile. It was promoting its daylight press lines for MDF and particleboard and its short-cycle lamination lines, all of which are commonplace in the Chinese panel industry’s factories, often ‘alongside’ imported continuous press lines.

Sufoma, another prominent manufacturer of press lines in China, also exhibited there.

Hall 5 was the location for the European machinery suppliers and, whilst a number of the more prominent companies were exhibiting there, several were notable by their absence, reflecting the fact that most see the WM Fair, held in Beijing in even-numbered years, as the more important show for the panels sector.

Swiss sander manufacturer Steinemann reported a fairly brisk show with a number of ‘old friends’ from China as well as overseas visitors. The company has had considerable success in the Chinese market, notably in mills which have equipped themselves with European continuous press lines.

Sia Abrasives also reported a good show. The Swiss company has a joint-venture workshop in Guangzhou where it joints narrow abrasive belts for the furniture industry and punches discs. It also has a warehouse for products from Switzerland.

“Business is increasing year on year, but this is a very challenging market in terms of quality and competitiveness,” said Philip Ngai of Guangzhou sia Abrasives Co Ltd.

GreCon from Germany was very pleased with the interest in its products for quality control and spark detection, with its China area manager Roman Lichomski describing it as “the best Shanghai show ever for us”.

The company was promoting its latest product for flame and spark detection in presses, with manual control of the extinguishing possible. However, on-the-line quality control/measuring technology has some way to go yet in the Chinese market.

Another German company, SHW, was presenting its bulk materials discharging and handling systems for areas such as chip storage, while Grenzebach offered its veneer drying technology.

Michael Bischof of Siempelkamp said that thin HDF/MDF lines represent the trend in China today and suggested that 70% of production was below 6mm on new continuous lines.

Recent contracts for Siempelkamp include Senlan Woodworking Timber Co Ltd in Lishui, Fujian province, which has a 23.8m ContiRoll press under installation and due to start up in October this year.

Luyuan in Guangdong has an identical line due to start up at the same time and both lines will have a nominal capacity of 175,000m3/year.

Weihua Liaoning bought another line identical to those two and this is scheduled for installation in early 2008 (see p37).

This active market has surprised most observers after a quiet 2005. “We expect over the longer term there will be about five new continuous lines annually,” said Mr Bischof.

Siempelkamp has had a workshop in Wuxi since 2005, employing 110 people and making complete forming lines and fibre bins for the Chinese and export markets including Canada. “The quality is the same but the cost is less,” pointed out Mr Bischof.

He also said that Dare Wood, which already has four continuous lines in production, is set to double its overall capacity in the next five years.

Electronic Wood Systems (EWS), also from Germany, is represented in China by Eurochina, as are fellow German companies Maier and Anthon. “We have received 10 orders a year for the last four years for our on-the-line measuring and spark detection equipment,” said EWS’ founder Hans Peter Kleinschmidt.

Anthon, Germany, manufactures large sawing systems and Mr Metzger, head of sales, said it had sold about 20 angular plants in China so far, with five on order this year alone. “And we have had two serious enquiries at this show,” he said.

“China is the second most important market for us,” said Thomas Dietrich of Maier, which makes chippers and flakers. “We have sold 30 knife ring flakers in China to date.” The company offers three sizes of knife ring flakers – 1200, 1400 and 1600 and has found that the smaller size is popular on the Chinese market.

It was also promoting its two-stage OSB strand production system and reported a lot of interest at the show.

Dieffenbacher has had the most success in China among the European continuous press makers and sales director Georg Rahm said the market continues active, with four contracts received in 2006. These were for Shengda MDF in Chengdu, Sichuan, Dongdun HDF in Anhui province, Dare in Maoming (thin HDF) and Hebei Ying Yang particleboard. This year, Dieffenbacher had, up to the exhibition, received orders from Weihua for a thin HDF line in Hubei and another in Hebei.

“We are getting a lot of MDF/HDF line enquiries at the moment after a ‘rest’ in 2005,” said Mr Rahm and we expect a similar number of contracts in 2007 as we had in 2006. My personal opinion is that a lot of the new capacity will be bought to replace old lines, so they will not require a great deal of additional wood resource.”

He also pointed out that there is a lot of poor quality particleboard from old lines in China and a need to raise the image of this product to gain acceptance. With only one million m3 being produced on modern continuous lines so far, this is a challenge – to raise the profitability.

Mr Liu Shouhua, Dieffenbacher’s chief representative in China, believes there is also a good future for cereal based boards.

Didier Goesaert of Dieffenbacher subsidiary SPE was offering his latest drum dryer with redesigned internal structures to give better distribution of flakes or strands.

German press maker Wemhöner is to open its brand new, purpose-built factory and showroom in Changzhou on June 8. It will have 3,000m2 of production space and 500m2 of offices.

“We will start with making standard-type membrane presses for sale worldwide and we expect to sell at least 50% outside China,” said chief executive Heiner Wemhöner. “We will see what else we will manufacture there later. We will have German engineers at the new factory ensuring quality and service and we have also already trained Chinese staff in Germany. We will offer facilities for customers to bring their panels for test-lamination as well.”

The company also supplies short-cycle presses to China, but Mr Wemhöner admitted the competition there is very tough.

Modul Systeme reported a lot of good contacts made at the show. The company has had some success in supplying secondhand refurbished green end machinery in particular, which has been used together with brand new continuous press lines to control the overall cost of the project. One such project recently involved transporting a range of machinery from the UK to China, for the green end and panel finishing.

“I see a good future for this kind of project,” said Eberhard Kühnlein of Modul.

Apart from secondhand machinery, Modul also offers brand new glue preparation and dosing systems – everything from the dry silos to the forming line.

Andritz of Austria, famous for its refiners and green end equipment, has had considerable success in China, supplying its refiners in particular, both to imported machinery lines and those where the main components are made by Chinese companies. Gernot Hartmann, sales manager, service, for the panel industry said his stand had been very busy every day and he was pleased to see visitors from India and Iran. Andritz has over 80 lines running in China and four starting up this year, so far.

The company has a repair shop in Foshan, Guangzhou province, for repairs and spare parts – mainly for the wear parts in plug screw feeders, often worn heavily by the wood quality employed in China.

Also from Austria, Berndorf Band, supplier of continuous stainless steel press belts, said it had supplied 38 wood based panel lines so far in China. It has a Beijing base for service and support and the full range of belt repair tools and services.

Italy was represented by only two companies in the panel sector: Imeas and Cremona.

Imeas was promoting its wide-belt sanders which have had some success in China, mainly on imported continuous press lines.

Mr Lazzaro Cremona, chief executive of this supplier of veneer processing machinery, reported that business in China has improved over recent years and he is confident of the future for his company.

“We are now supplying some press dryers to customers who want to upgrade their quality to European standards,” he said. “I think slicing veneer is getting more and more interesting in China because they need thicker veneer for furniture that is to be exported to North America and Europe.”

From Finland, Raute was offering complete lines for plywood, LVL and parquet flooring manufacture, as well as its overlaying lines. It has recently set up a wholly-owned company in Shanghai to make some of the simpler components for its machines.

Mr Hannu Lukkari, area sales manager, said that he sees a good future for LVL, particularly in non-structural applications at first, as it is ideally suited to China’s plantation-grown wood.

From the US came GTS Energy, which reported having six of its energy plants running in China and two under construction, at Dongdun, Hubei and Luyuan, Guangdong. It also has a letter of intent for three more lines, for Weihua, one of which includes a power plant.

In 2005, WoodMac China in Shanghai went from being a biennial show, thus effectively alternating with the WM Fair in Beijing, to an annual show.

The organisers have now apparently seen the light and realised there are too many shows chasing the available business and the exhibition is to go back to being biennial, with the next event being held in 2009.