The outstanding success of this year’s LIGNA has given a significant boost to the international wood industry and effectively underscored the show’s reputation as the world’s No. 1 event for its sector. ‘Attendance was up by over 10 percent, with a major increase in the number of high-caliber visitors and more guests coming from abroad than ever before’, reported Stephan Ph. Kühne, member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe. ‘LIGNA 2007 has delivered exactly the kind of stimuli needed for even more solid growth ahead.’

This year’s LIGNA (staged under the motto ‘World of Wood’) was referred to by many exhibitors as the ‘best LIGNA ever’, and surveys confirmed a significant increase in the number of business contacts generated at the show. LIGNA has always highlighted future trends, and this year’s event – boasting a total of 134,583 square meters of net display area (up from 129,083 sq. m. in 2005) – again set new standards for the various sectors of the wood industry, highlighting a host of impressive innovations and revealing the shape of things to come. With 1,879 exhibitors (up from 1,800 in 2005) from 49 countries (2005: 44), LIGNA 2007 had broken records even before the gates opened. The over 107,000 visitors in attendance (2005: 96,675) were every bit as enthusiastic as the exhibitors, who reported a strong upwind in virtually every segment.

Among the show’s featured themes, the ‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ showcase devoted to wood craft professionals, drew a lot of attention, as well as displays on timber construction, energy and surface treatment.

More visitors from abroad, more trade professionals and more deals closed

Part of the upsurge in attendance at LIGNA 2007 was accounted for by five percent more visitors from Germany (with significantly more visitors coming from Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and the eastern German states). But it was again the soaring figures for attendance from abroad – topping the previous show by 21 percent – that cemented LIGNA’s reputation as an unparalleled international event. This huge upswing was mainly due to a greater turnout from the EU, Asia and North America. A total of 50,200 foreign visitors (2005: 41,400) boosted the international visitor ratio to 46.5 percent, as compared with 42.8 percent in 2005. Trade visitors from EU countries increased by 23 percent, to 28,900 (23,500 in 2005). The figures for Asia were even more impressive, with visitor numbers up 32 percent to 5,800 (2005: 4,400). The same 32-percent growth rate was achieved by the United States and Canada, which together accounted for 4,500 attendees compared with 3,400 in 2005. The list of the top ten visitor nations was headed by Italy and Austria, followed by the United States and Canada.

The outstanding caliber of the show’s attendees was clearly confirmed by visitor surveys, which revealed that the number of visitors who play a ‘decisive’ or ‘advisory’ role in their company’s capital investment decisions rose from an already impressive 78.3 percent to 82.3 percent, or 85,900 in absolute terms. This excellent visitor profile was also reflected in terms of deals done at the event: One Finnish supplier of biomass power stations reported contract signings worth a total of 100 million euros.

Wood crafts showcase ‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ attracts 30,000 visitors

In terms of sectors, attendance was up for the retail trade, the wood processing industry, the furniture industry and the wood-based materials segment. A highly popular attraction was ‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ (Wood Crafts), an event targeted at joiners, cabinetmakers, carpenters, assembly and prefabrication firms and architects and planners. A total of around 30,000 professionals turned out to see this show-within-a-show, which registered a steep rise in attendance from the following fields: carpentry, joinery and wood-based construction (up from 4,700 to 7,900); assembly and prefabrication (up from 1,200 to 4,000); engineering and architecture (a more than twofold increase, from 2,500 to 5,700). Several firms who were not yet exhibiting in the ‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ section have already chosen to book another stand there for the next LIGNA.

Upbeat mood among exhibitors

LIGNA 2007 once again succeeded in topping the previous show’s foreign exhibitor turnout: This year a total of 1,033 firms came to Hannover from aboard (2005: 956), while 846 came from within Germany (2005: 844). This puts the foreign exhibitor ratio at 55 percent – further confirmation of LIGNA’s status as the world’s No. 1 meeting place for the wood and forestry industries. Italy once again headed the list of exhibitor nations, with 330 participating firms (2005: 307), followed by Austria with 89 (93), Taiwan with 50 (43) and Sweden with 47 (40). The exhibitor survey revealed a significantly more optimistic climate throughout the industry than in 2005. Interestingly, German exhibitors were even more upbeat than their foreign competitors. Sales expectations were also noticeably higher than before. Exhibitors identified their main objectives for coming to LIGNA as staying in touch with existing customers and generating new leads. The main criterion for a successful fair was cited as being the caliber of its visitors, and LIGNA fully met all expectations in this regard. Accordingly, exhibitors rated the benefits derived from participating in the show even more highly than in 2005.

Sector trends

Exhibitors of technical solutions for the furniture industry were highly satisfied. Along with the latest automation techniques and equipment for furniture manufacture, panel and veneer processing, their displays featured machines for surface treatment, assembly and packaging, plus goods handling and storage systems. Innovations at this year’s LIGNA included the new ‘hot melt’ coating technique, which eliminates the need for filler application and primer machines, as well as any intermediate sanding. Other innovations included ink printers for wood panels, providing exceptional flexibility for design changes and eliminating the cumbersome need to change surface rollers.

The displays in the halls devoted to sawmilling technology, solid wood working, wood materials and veneer production featured machines for wood sawing, milling, planing, sanding and pressing, all in continuous operation. Here, too, there was an emphasis on the topics of wood optimization, new surface technologies for laminates and parquet floors, and high-performance machines. This included several ‘world premieres’, for example a new thin-kerf band saw for dividing wood blocks into thin wood slices for sandwich panels, and a saw for kerfs of less than 0.7 mm.

Surfaces transformed by innovative technologies

A key theme across all halls and sectors was that of innovative surface technologies. For this purpose, Deutsche Messe and the German Woodworking Machinery Association within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), in cooperation with the Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences and selected exhibitors, created the ‘Wooden Surface Solutions’ initiative. Demonstrations for tradeshow visitors highlighted the complexity of today’s surfaces, which are processed in a diverse series of value-added and production stages based on the deployment of state-of-the-art, high-tech machines.

All of these complex technologies were presented in a highly accessible manner. Whether the surface is planed, sanded or brushed, oiled, waxed or varnished – today’s buyer appears to have an unlimited variety of choices.

‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ – high-tech for the wood crafts sector

Another highlight was the ‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ (Wood Crafts) presentation. This ‘show-within-a-show,’ devoted to the woodworking skilled trades, was held this year for the second time, now filling a total of six halls. Live presentations of the latest cutting, sawing, spraying and pressing techniques complemented comprehensive displays on every aspect of wood crafts.

The German Association of Carpentry and Joinery (BHKH) and the plastics manufacturer Pokal presented the ‘Form & Function’ competition. This display of 23 journeymen’s pieces was particularly popular with younger visitors. School classes could be seen gathered around items that included gracefully fashioned sideboards, solid wood desks, and even a washstand.

In terms of floor space, the biggest exhibitors at ‘Handwerk, Holz & mehr’ were machinery manufacturers, some of whom projected live demonstrations of precision woodworking onto large screens. Here the focus was on high-tech processes, with many of the devices being computer-controlled and monitored from a computer screen.

Chipping machines, wood pellets and heating systems under one (EXPO) roof

In the open-air showgrounds and under the wooden roof of the EXPO area, experts were on hand to display the many and various possibilities for wood as an energy source. Visitors watched the piles grow as machines turned wood, chaff and straw into wood chips and pellets. under the motto of ‘energy from wood’, the displays included the latest high-temperature furnaces, biomass combustion chambers and bio-heating systems. And out on the open-air site, forestry and forestry industry exhibitors offered impressive displays of how today’s machines harvest the trees, then transport, lift, saw and chip the logs.

Competitions with axe and saw

The objective of the international LIGNACup event in the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® SERIES is to promote tree felling and log cutting skills. Competitors in a range of disciplines competed with chainsaws and axes in the season’s first international cup in Germany, vying for first place and valuable championship points. And there was also plenty of excitement surrounding the ‘Lower Saxony Forwarder Competition’, as drivers maneuvered log hauling machines around the course.

Wonders in Wood

And to show just a few of the amazing things that can be made from wood, the first ‘Wonders in Wood’ special presentation and sales exhibition – the only event of its kind anywhere in the world – presented the works of 40 international designers, artists and craftspeople. The highlight of this special presentation was Erich Schatt’s ‘wood machine’.

Expert forums a valuable platform for international information exchange

Numerous presentations and forums staged in the halls and on open-air sites offered an ideal opportunity for beneficial background discussion. Experts from around the world convened at a series of high-level congresses held in the Convention Center at the exhibition site. Attendance reached up to 200 per event, far exceeding organizers’ expectations.

At the 4th Conference of the Forest-based Sector Technology Platform (FTP), billed as a ‘European Conference on Innovation and R&D in the Forest-based Sector’, representatives of the forestry and timber processing industries debated current industry issues. Topics covered included the impact of climate change, new recycling technologies, and ways of meeting the objectives of the EU Lisbon strategy – an initiative for the creation and stimulation of future lead markets for the forest-based sector.

Bioenergy and the transformation of tropical forestry waste into fuel were the topics discussed at the International Bioenergy Congress held by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). This event was organized by the federal German government and the Yokohama-based ITTO, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

And the 1st International Business and Export Forum for Wood Energy, jointly organized by the German Bioenergy Association (BBE) and the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), focused on the wood energy supply chain under the title of ‘Best-Practice Case Studies from the Worldwide Wood Industry’.

One of the conclusions from LIGNA 2007 is that the wood and forestry industry is in a stage of rapid growth and development, and has exciting prospects for the future. Exhibitors and attendees alike agreed to meet again at LIGNA+ HANNOVER 2009 (18-22 May).