The surfacing world

28 September 2020


Longoni is a world leader in know-how, machinery and materials for the global panel surfacing and finishing sectors and it remains confident of longer-term market prospects despite the current impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stephen Powney talks to CEO Roberto Longoni

The experience of Monza-based Longoni Roberto e figli srl goes back over 40 years in the markets for wood-based panels, with particular specialism in the field of surfacing.

Know-how, machinery and materials for the production of coated wood panels (LPL), high pressure laminates (HPL), particleboards, MDF, continuous laminates (CPL) and melamine faced flooring has been Longoni’s forte.

Reference project are worldwide and focus strongly on developing countries, including the likes of India, Brazil, Columbia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, with projects ranging from delivering a complete factory for HPL manufacture, to supply of presses, impregnation lines, resin plants, cutting and drying technology, cushion pads and press plates, as well as the ability to supply secondhand and reconditioned equipment.

New machinery is also supplied by Longoni via its worldwide partners.

WBPI caught up with CEO Roberto Longoni to find out the company’s latest news and the market situation.

The situation with the coronavirus was obviously very topical and Mr Longoni said the province of Lombardy, where the company is based, was very badly hit.

“Luckily we have not suffered personally from the virus, our families are safe and we started working full time in the office again in May,” Mr Longoni said.

He said the company is following up on some interesting projects but the impact of Covid-19 would have a short-term impact, with turnover reducing in 2020. “We are a small company and we don’t have very high costs, which is helpful.

“We are confident that next year will be better. I think the recovery will be the second half of 2021, depending on the situation with the virus,” he added.

Lamidry

One of Longoni’s biggest development focuses over the last few years is LamiDry, what it calls a “new perspective” in melamine resins application, billing the patented technology as solid state lamination.

The principle is to substitute the wet impregnation of decor paper with a dry treatment by powder resin.

Longoni has a pilot plant in Italy, where it has been working in co-operation with Chemisol.

The two have co-operated in the development of an MF resin, different from standard melamine resins, optimised for lamination after powder coating.

Mr Longoni said good results had been obtained from the pilot plant and now Longoni and its partners are in discussions with clients to establish a treating line with industrial capacity.

“We are now working with two or three companies to try to convince them to install an industrial line,” said Mr Longoni.

A German company has conducted tests on the pilot plant and is in discussion with Longoni, but the Covid-19 pandemic has temporarily halted progress. Discussions are also taking place with an Italian company.

Advantages cited for LamiDry include the fact that the solid resin is sprayed so there is no need to dip the paper into resin; less consumption of energy; the line is shorter in length and no formaldehyde emissions.

“This [formaldehyde free] is important in many countries,” Mr Longoni added.

The solution also doesn’t require the cost of the dryers, a resin plant or emissions cleaning equipment.

Mr Longoni also pointed out another advantage of the dry resin process: the decor paper will not expand as it doesn’t get wet, therefore embossing-in-register is easier, as paper expansion does not have to be allowed for.

He admitted it was currently aimed at niche products due to a slower line speed – approximately 25m/min speed at the moment – compared to conventional lines.

“When there is new technology it takes time. But the results are good in the pilot plant and we are having good discussions with companies.”

With Longoni having an extensive list of reference projects in so many countries it has a good picture on where business and investment levels are at in different world regions.

It has some current enquiries for machinery from European countries, including a small short cycle lamination (SCL) press project.

“Last year we sold an HPL line to Malaysia and did some upgrading on an impregnation line in Italy. We are now commissioning two SCL lines and one two-steps impregnation line supplied this year.”

The pandemic has understandably put many projects on standby.

“In South America people are still looking for new press plates with new finishes and deeper engraved finishes,” Mr Longoni said. These included many clients in Columbia and Brazil, but the virus is currently affecting business in these countries and also Peru and Argentina.

Discussions have been taking place in Columbia with a client who wants to invest in an SCL press.

One of Longoni’s clients in India is working at about 25% capacity due to virus disruptions.

“India for us was a good market but then of course lockdown came. Maybe they will recover at the end of the year but at perhaps 50% of their previous capacity, so I think in the next 12 months it will be difficult to conclude new business and projects there.”

Iran has been a solid market for Longoni for the last 10-15 years and the company has previously exhibited in Tehran, but the political/economic situation in this market, together with the pandemic, makes it difficult do business currently.

“We have just delivered the platens for an SCL press in Tunisia and in Turkey we are working on a project initiated more than 12 months ago for a new SCL press.”

Upgrading and supply of spare parts and raw materials is work that is ongoing more than new lines currently, while Longoni continues to be an agent for long-standing Italian press plate manufacturer Flai in various markets.

Longoni is seeing increasing demand worldwide for supermatt finishes, an attractive finish with increased durability and anti-fingerprint.

As well as partnership with Flai, Longoni has a good relationship with Chinese technology companies.

“For us China is not a market where we are selling but where we are sourcing equipment made by our design in collaboration with some select Chinese companies,” added Mr Longoni.

Longoni has close co-operation with NTST in Nantong, Jiangsu Province.

This company is a major manufacturer of machinery for the wood processing industry and produces high-quality one-step and twostep impregnation lines for melamine, urea and phenolic impregnation.

“We think our technology has reached the level of European technology and of course the price is lower,” said Mr Longoni.

“And there is, of course, our supervision of their manufacturing to ensure quality standards.”

Longoni has an office in Shanghai for its close co-operation there.

Despite the challenges of recent market events due to Covid-19, Longoni is remaining positive that market investment will recover in 2021 and that its extensive technical knowledge in the European market, combined with a solid experience in developing countries during more than 20 years will allow it to continue providing solutions in know-how, machinery and raw materials of highest quality at minimum cost.

CEO Roberto Longoni says the LamiDry system has multiple advantages in melamine resin applications
High performance impregnation unit
Longoni’s expertise covers multiple areas of surfacing. Photo: Fully flexible reverse coaters