The IWF (International Woodworking Fair) currently caters mostly for the cabinetry sector, followed by furniture and then architectural millwork. By the admission of Jim Wulfekuhl, vice-president of sales and marketing for the show (see The Interview in this issue), primary processing only accounts for about 5%. That is due to change for future events.

Beginning our review with the ‘homegrown’ companies, Clarke’s Sheet Metal Inc of Eugene, Oregon, is a family business supplying equipment used for the collection and handling of the wood by-products generated in the manufacturing process, ie ducting and silos.

Clarke's also specialises in spark detection equipment and Andy Clarke said that the company has made improvements in this area. Clarke’s has also developed new air filters for the industrial collection of dust.

Electronic Wood Systems (EWS) North America was promoting its newest development, the EcoScan Neo-Fly, which it developed in cooperation with Siempelkamp of Germany. This equipment measures the material distribution of wood fibre mats.

Keith Mays, of EWS N America, Beaverton, Oregon, said that the company had installed and commissioned one such unit in the US so far, with a second under installation.

“We have had very good feedback and the first unit which EWS supplied is running very successfully in Europe,” said Mr Mays. “A lot of North American mills are replacing their blowdetection systems because of their age and we offer BlowScan for that. Our Conti-Scale X continuous non-contact area weight scale is also selling well.

“EWS’s spark detection/extinguishing equipment is also selling well and going global.” The show started well for EWS, with interesting visits to its stand on the first day. “Panel makers are making money now and investing in their mills,” concluded Mr Mays. Quin Global of Omaha, whose brand name is Tensor, offers pressurised spray adhesive systems for attaching laminates and veneers to panel substrates.

PaperStone was offering an interesting product, though not strictly relevant to wood based panels. This Washington State company turns recycled paper into a “stone” product. Unlike stone, it offers a matt or leathered finish. “It cuts like wood but feels like stone,” said Emily Rice of PaperStone.

‘Coverply’ is a thinner layer of PaperStone attached to plywood, while CharredStone on plywood is a wall cladding which can be tongued and grooved. Or you can have solid PaperStone in counter top thickness and a choice of 13 colours, which are all UV stable.

Timesavers Inc is a very well-established name in the global panel industry for its widebelt sanders, mainly for plywood. The Series 5300 is claimed to be built to withstand hours of continuous use, while operating at high feed speeds. Each machine is customised to the client’s requirements and is available with various ‘optional extras’. The standard width is up to 64in, but any width machine can be made.

Robert Williams is CEO and owner of this 70-year-old company and said that he had received four enquiries for plywood sanders at this IWF show. “The market is picking up,” he said.

Arclin of Roswell, Georgia, is a specialist in decorative overlays, offering a wide range of colours and textures. Notably, it offers the GraphX range of decorative overlays for exterior use. It also offers ‘FirePoint’ fireretardant overlays.

Universal Forest Products is a global import/ export company in the panel industry and was featuring Tricoya MDF from Medite, Ireland, on its booth, as the largest distributor for Accys

Technologies in the US, Mexico and Canada. Sweed Machinery of Gold Hill Oregon manufactures machinery to chop up waste strapping from packs of sheet materials. Obviously, such waste is a very serious trip hazard and needs to be removed in the shortest time possible. Sweed’s machines do that.

Anderson Group North America offers a range of own-brand machinery imported from Taiwan. These are mainly CNC machines. However, Anderson also owns Giben North America and Brazil. Giben is a well-known Italian saw manufacturer, including angular saws for panel mills (Anderson does not own Giben Italy).

Rees-Memphis Inc manufactures dust collection and control systems; pneumatic conveying and filtration systems; material handling fans; cyclone separators; rotary air locks and other related products. It also offers project evaluation, design and engineering, manufacturing and field services.

Stiles is the largest machinery agency on the continent and the size of its booth emphasised that fact. Of course the fact that Homag, a very large machinery manufacturer in Germany owns Stiles meant the booth was actually vast, dominating the exhibition hall.

In a press conference held during IWF, Christian Vollmers, CEO of Stiles Machinery, said: “The US economy is booming and consumer confidence is growing. We are 15% ahead of last year in turnover so far this year and we predict 18% plus over 2017, which was in itself a record year”.

Kings Mountain International of North Carolina was exhibiting its press plates for the laminating industry. The company also refurbishes and re-glosses press plates.

Turning to the European companies exhibiting at IWF 2018, Imal-Pal/Panel Alliance had a prominent booth in Hall C. Panel Alliance also includes Vyncke, Trasmec, and Recalor.

“The North American market is important and is slowly improving,” said Stefano Benedetti of Imal. “The panel mills are moving towards using recycled wood in order to reduce their production costs. The old multi-opening lines will struggle to compete with continuous lines unless they reduce their costs. Our Hi-Jet resination system for particleboard and MDF can guarantee savings and Pal’s recycling technology will also reduce costs. This drive to reduce costs may be connected to the arrival of Kronospan and Egger in the North American market.

“We are in negotiations with a big North American panel making group, offering them many systems to reduce their costs.” Mr Benedetti added that Panel Alliance has carried out a lot of upgrades to Uniboard lines in Canada. This was chiefly at Val d’Or, where they had replaced the wood preparation, energy plant and dryer.

Biele of Spain was promoting its tailor-made solutions for transporting materials around a factory, together with its multi-opening Marzola presses.

“We are very busy, particularly in the plywood and veneer sectors, including presses,” said Jesús Telleria, managing director of Biele. “We have supplied two new plants – one in Spain for poplar plywood and one in Estonia, using birch. We have also supplied equipment to furniture, HPL and door lines, as well as other industries.”

Dieffenbacher USA, Inc has supplied a number of projects in the US.

“We’re optimistic about the North American market,” said Hauke Jeske, sales manager for North America. “We have supplied Arauco in Grayling, an LVL line to Roseburg in Chester and the Martco OSB line in Oakdale. This was a multi-opening line.”

Siempelkamp LP also has some projects in North America, including the Swiss Krono HDF line in Barnwell, South Carolina, which is due to come onstream in January-March 2019. Norbord’s Huguley, Alabama plant started up about nine months ago . Both those lines had ContiRoll 8 continuous presses.

Evin Lloyd of Fagus GreCon, Charlotte, North Carolina, said the company was expanding and spreading knowledge about its measuring and blow detection systems, as well as its spark detection/extinguishing equipment.

This was an upbeat show, with all the exhibitors saying that the number of interested visitors was up – even on the first day. The North American market is arising from its long sleep and exhibitors were confident about doing good business on the continent in the near future