Francesco Zenere, sales director at Imeas, says: “Technology, tailor-made solutions and service represent our way to be a leading company. We do not consider ourselves as leaders because we sell more, but because we can serve our Customers with deeper and wider technical skills and know-how than any other in this Industry.”

In a sort of ‘Darwinian evolution’, Imeas says its sanders have developed into several forms specific to the product they have to process: flexible PVC coils present different challenges to those posed by thin HPL sheets; a plywood panel is quite different from an MDF one.

Therefore, even if the abrasive belt is the same, each sander can differ from the others to a great extent… or perhaps by only small, yet vital, details.

During the past 10 years, Imeas says it has constantly developed technologies to improve its former line of sanding machine, the ‘SuperPerformance’ range.

Driven positioning of the sanding units and the automatic abrasive belt tracking and oscillation system are just a couple of examples it quotes. Others, like the remote ‘TeleService’ and a more powerful PLC with integrated safety system, are less evident but surely of high benefit to the Customers, says Imeas.

Today, it says that all these improvements (and much more) have been combined into a brand new family of sanding machines, the EvoL, which are going to become the company’s solution for processing MDF/HDF, particleboard and plywood panels, with specific characteristics for each application.

Unveiled for the first time during the recent Ligna exhibition, the EvoL sanders (the name stands for ‘sanding evolution’) was Imeas’ ninth generation of sanding machines. This generation is said to include all the company’s expertise and know-how, built up over several decades – and billions of panels sanded.

The true spirit of the EvoL sanders can be summed up in few words, says Imeas: cost reduction and improved capacity. Not only do the new machines offer higher sanding speeds (150m/min as standard and up to 200m/ min on request), but the many changes in the mechanical and electrical design are aimed to simplify maintenance, rationalise the stock of spare parts, provide a faster abrasive belt change and improve abrasive belt life, when compared with competitors’ machines (up to 20% according to some sources).

Additionally, the EvoL sanders were reengineered to fully integrate all the Industry 4.0 concepts, such as remote manageability, integration with factory ERP systems for data exchange, trend and data analysis and complete control of the machine from a control desk with no need to make manual adjustments. This is what Imeas calls its ‘Full Control System’, or FCS. Since the Ligna show, the company says it has received firm orders for more than 20 EvoL sanding units to be delivered in Europe and Asia and that it has commitments for several others. This Italian company is also growing in several niche markets where its expertise can be combined with its engineering and customising skills.

Imeas says that this can be seen in the Cross Laminated Timber (CLT or X-Lam) segment. This application is characterised by few customers, who demand fully automatic solutions, high reliability and tailor-made configurations to satisfy a variety of needs.

These requests have led to the development of customised 10-feet-width machines with asymmetric arrangement of the sanding units and a purpose-built software which takes care of machine management with minimal supervision from the operators.

In the past few years, Imeas has delivered about 10 machines of this type, and this year the company will deliver the first 12-feet-wide sanding line for CLT (and, it suggests, the first in the world?).

Another niche market where Imeas sees steady growth is in cross-belt sanders for MDF and particleboard panels. A few years ago, this kind of machine was considered unnecessary, but today even more customers are considering the addition of such a sander to improve the quality of their boards beyond the possibilities of conventional sanders.

Imeas points out that, by running an abrasive belt cross-wise on the panel, instead of along its length, this sander can remove small ripples, lines, and other imperfections, as well as reducing the average roughness of the panel, using minimal energy and saving on consumables.

To give an idea, Imeas says that the power consumption is 85% less than a conventional two-unit sander – and that abrasive belt life is up to four times as long.

“We expect continuous growth in sales of this machine type, especially because we notice that customers are always asking the same question: how to improve quality: We have the answer,” says Mr Zenere.

As well as the production of new machines, Imeas says it pays great attention to service, not only offering original spare parts and its experience in setting and fine-tuning its sanders, but also offering modernisation packages aimed at updating an old (sometime, VERY old) machine and stretching its life by several more years.

Rather than just a couple of pulleys and a motor, these can be extensive machine modifications which may involve changing the PLC and HMI (which in some cases were not present at all); the modification of the abrasive belt tracking system to use the most modern one; and the introduction of Imeas’ Full Control System to precisely position each sanding unit to the desired point with the touch of a finger.

“We ran such a project a couple of years ago for a well-known Italian customer, turning a sander built in the early 1970s into a modern one, with PLC and automatic adjustments where cables and hand wheels used to be. The result was awesome,” says Mr Zenere.

“We do not know today where the wood based panel market will drive us, but surely we will be ready to accept the challenge and design something to fit it. After all, flexibility and adaptation is part of the Italian DNA!”