There is always much debate about the relative merits of the two major international exhibitions in Europe for the woodworking and allied industries: Xylexpo in Milan, Italy and Ligna in Hannover, Germany.

Xylexpo (formerly known as Interbimall), for woodworking machinery, is held concurrently and on the same showground as Sasmil, an exhibition for suppliers to the furniture and allied industries, in even years.

Ligna, the exhibition for woodworking machinery, and Interzum for the furniture and allied industries, are held in different locations on overlapping dates in odd numbered years. While Ligna is held in the Hannover showgrounds, Interzum is held in Cologne.

Many consider that the Italian idea of locating both exhibitions in one place at one time is better and more convenient for the visitors than having to travel between two events. No doubt that debate will continue.

For the machinery industry, Ligna is certainly the larger of the two events and the more internationally renowned. Having said that, the organisers of the Xylexpo-Sasmil event are this year claiming an 8.4% increase in visitor numbers over 1998 and, within that figure, a 28% increase in overseas visitors to 50.8% of the total. They also claim that there were 92,000 trade visitors to the 1,418 stands at the shows.

A noteworthy exhi-bitor in Xylexpo was Valmet Panelboard. The company was making its first appearance at an exhibition since it changed its name from Sunds Defibrator – having surprised many people by not exhibiting at Ligna last year – and its first since Küsters presses joined the family.

“We are here to tell the world that all these brands – Sunds, Kvaerner, Bison, Küsters, ABB Fläkt – are now Valmet and that we can supply the whole panel making process,” said Hans Arnberg of Valmet. “We are the most complete supplier from our own resources.” In common with most exhibitors, there was no machinery on the stand, with the emphasis being on a comfortable atmosphere for discussions to take place.

The company emphasises its ability to tailor the factory to the raw material being used and is actively involved with alternative materials such as straw and recycled wood. Valmet also supplied MDF La Baie in Canada last year with two parallel M-60 defibrators to run on 85% sawdust, with the capacity to run 100% sawdust if required. It also supplied the dryer system.

Metro MDF in Thailand bought a Küsters continuous press in October 1999 and orders have also been taken from Placas do Paraná in Brazil and Shengdu in China.

For the first time, Siempelkamp had all its subsidiary and affiliated companies on one stand at the show, promoting the concept of ‘cooperation in technological innovation’. Each company had its own clearly identified area of the circular stand but with free movement between them all, and with central reception and catering areas.

Austrian saw manufacturer Schelling shocked many visitors by appearing under the Biesse banner at Xylexpo. The two companies signed a merger agreement in May this year in which there will be a total integration between them through a share swap between Werner Deuring, owner of Schelling, and the Biesse SpA group.

Biesse is mainly in the small to medium saw market, while Schelling is in the larger turnkey plants and it is planned that the two companies will complement one another, with some rationalisation where product areas overlap.

“We will provide an alternative solution to the markets, especially furniture, and our goal is to become the leading entity,” said Mr Deuring.

I think perhaps Mr Deuring’s message is ‘Homag beware!’.

Siempelkamp reported 20 orders between January and April this year, including seven ContiRoll plants and an eight-daylight press, due to start up next year. The short-cycle press division recorded 12 orders for complete plants in the same period.

It said a new short-cycle line for Akzenta in Kaisersech, Germany, has set a new world record for laminate flooring production at 12,500m² in an eight-hour shift – a pressing time of under 22 seconds.

Another Siempelkamp company, CMC Texpan, was promoting its dual action separator – a disc separator and a roller device with small discs. Its function is to remove glue lumps, contaminants and oversize particles from the furnish flow for core layer material.

‘Semitex’ is a roller device with small discs, also for removing oversize material from the core layer furnish, while ‘Pneumec’ is a similar machine, but is intended for surface layer material and is installed in the wind forming chamber, thus combining mechanical and pneumatic functions, as its name suggests.

Siempelkamp’s electronic process control division, ATR, was promoting its database system Win-Trending, offering trending, diagnosis and analysis in one system.

Meanwhile Büttner, the drying specialist arm announced it has increased the capacity of its OSB drum dryer to 30 tons per hour of water evaporation in a 6m by 30m drum with redesigned internals.

Rolf Kamper, managing director of Siempelkamp Singapore, reported a positive mood in South East Asia, particularly Thailand and Malaysia, with several serious enquiries for new lines currently under negotiation.

Italian companies Pal and Imal, affiliated to Siempelkamp, were for the first time located on Siempelkamp’s stand, adjacent to each other to emphasise the synergies between these two separate companies.

Pal was concentrating on its recycled wood processing technology, as it has for the past few years. Managing director Romeo Paladin reported having ‘plenty of orders’ with turnover having doubled since 1998. “Our production is fully booked for this year, supplying complete solutions to all major new plants,” said Mr Paladin. “We supply from woodyard to dryer inlet and from dryer outlet to forming stations including all controls,” he said. “We can supply on a turnkey basis, if required, and customers increasingly want complete solutions.”

In May this year Pal took shares in its specialist supplier PMI which has supplied mechanical components to the company for some time.

Since the launch of the Dynascreen at Ligna in 1997, the company has sold 113 of these plants for screening chips and has had similar success with its air sifters and chip cleaners.

Imal’s managing director Loris Zanasi also reported intense sales activity for his company and was promoting its new fibre gluing system. Imal claims a 20-30% saving in resin, resulting in less formaldehyde being released from the dryer and less dryer cleaning. The principle of the system is to apply a high percentage of resin after the dryer rather than in the blow-line before the dryer, although some is still injected into the blow-line. A special blender for use after the dryer, with airless glue nozzles, has been developed for this system.

Imal was also promoting its continuous X-ray density profile meter and mat density gauges, as well as its laboratory X-ray density profile meter, laboratory testing machine and Autolab fully automatic testing system.

If anybody doubted that the old rivals Pal and Imal are now friends, the latest joint brochure ‘Global experience for the wood based panel industry’ should convince them. It is a book of two halves, with Pal information reading in one direction and Imal in the other.

Dieffenbacher, Dieffenbacher Schenck and Schenkmann & Piel (S&P) were sharing a stand for the first time at a European show, following the announcement that Dieffenbacher had taken a 20% stake in S&P at Ligna last year.

They appeared under the banner ‘complete production lines from a single source’, promoting competence in OSB, MDF, LVL and short-cycle lamination. The stand displayed models of a CPS continuous press, a fibre dryer and the SIT of Italy (Mauro Saviola Group) particleboard line, which it claims is the world’s largest.

The OSB industry is important to Dieffenbacher, which has sold nearly 50 lines to North America, five of which are 12ft wide multi-opening and one 12ft continuous. In Europe, the company announced it had sold a continuous line with daily capacity of 700m³ to Agglo of Belgium.

In short-cycle lamination, one of Dieffenbacher’s latest projects was the high speed laminating line of French laminate flooring maker EPI (WBPI June/July) which has a nominal speed of 150 cycles per hour using Dieffenbacher’s newly upgraded numerically controlled Synchron-Quick system.

Dieffenbacher turned over DM320m in 1999 and expects to hit DM400m this year – a record for the company.

Raute Wood was promoting its new ‘Vantage’ dry veneer moisture sensor, controlled by an industrial PC. It claims accurate moisture detection down to 2% and has three levels of marking for up to eight species/groupings of veneer. The two basic types available are the Cross Tipple and Dry Chain moisture sensors. The first is positioned at the dryer outfeed conveyor and employs 18 contact brushes to measure the moisture in three sheets at a time in the direction of grain. The Dry Chain device is installed at the end of the dryer outfeed conveyor and contacts one sheet of veneer at a time in the cross-grain direction.

The company sees LVL as a major growth area, particularly in North America, and this is an important area for its veneer-based interests.

Heinrich Kuper of Reitburg, Germany, expressed satisfaction with the response at the show, particularly from Asia. The centrepiece of their exhibition was veneer splicing and the FL Innovation, a butt splicing machine for veneers subject to further processing at high temperatures and pressures, aroused a lot of interest.

The company also displayed its standard Zick-Zack veneer splicing machines and the Kuper ACR ‘Superquick’ for cross veneer butt splicing. The company was also offering a new veneer package guillotine in cooperation with Josting and presented, for the first time, the Kuper ZFS double knife guillotine with integrated finishing cut.

A company formed only 10 months ago made its debut at Xylexpo this year. Binos Technologies GmbH & Co KG and Binos Machinery GmbH is concentrating on the supply of small to medium sized panel plants.

And if the company name sounds vaguely familiar, it is because it is owned and staffed by ex-employees of the former Bison company which was absorbed by Kvaerner Panel Systems, now part of Valmet.

According to managing director Bernt Greten, the company uses a combination of new and used equipment to provide the most economical solution for mills employing wood or agricultural fibre as the raw material. Among new inventions awaiting patents are a mechanical former to produce a homogenous face layer; a new former for vacuum forming of MDF; a new former for mechanical MDF forming; and a new system of MDF dry blending, not involving the blow-line.

Mr Greten also claims to have changed the production of cement bonded board using a CO2 system within the press to reduce curing times from eight hours to three minutes for a semi-dry system. He said the company is very busy with several contracts to build new lines or convert/upgrade existing ones.

Geoenergy, an American company specialising in pollution control equipment, reported a US$18m order for 17 regenerative thermal oxidisers/regenerative catalytic oxidisers for Willamette Industries, received in April. The company was sharing a stand with Italian company Instalmec which has a licensing agreement with Geoenergy in Europe. Instalmec manufactures equipment for dust extraction and transport, fibre drying and scrubbing of fumes for dust abatement.

Imeas of Italy announced an order from Italian panel maker Frati for an eight-head, 2.6m wide four roll, four platen sander for delivery early next year. This brings the total of Imeas sanders in Frati to 40 machines. Meanwhile, the company also reports increased activity in North America through its subsidiary opened in Atlanta last year.

Hymmen and Hymmen-Hackemack were together at the show for the first time, with Hymmen emphasising its expertise in thermo-lamination with the launch of a new ‘basic machine’ and Hymmen-Hackemack concentrating on its liquid coating technology.

Italian saw manufacturer Giben had a new machine at the show and was in fact one of few exhibitors with any machinery there. The new FormulaX features the PM System, which has two grippers with high flexibility in moving panels or groups of strips of any size. This gripper is a robot device which ‘produces greater flexibility and more logical machine cycles as well as removing the problems associated with fixed gripper systems’.

The company was also promot-ing its new Tetramatic concept for large panel mills (WBPI April/May) along with the principle that cutting-to-size is an important part of vale adding.

New on the stand of wood size reduction machinery maker Pallmann was a cleaning system for knife rings prior to re-sharpening.

Elmag Superfici, while principally producing machinery for applying liquid coatings on panels for the furniture industry, was offering a computerised line which should be of interest to particleboard and MDF manufacturers who want to add value to their raw product by applying wood-grain or plain finishes to a low pressure melamine standard of finish.

“Often these companies have no previous experience of this process, so we make it easier for them,” said Luca Longhi. “Each application machine in the line has a PLC to control all the parameters including the pressure between the rollers. The computer can save the setting and thousands of programmes can be recalled at any time on each machine, or on a central control,” explained Mr Longhi. “I can call up information on all the machines and mix it as I want. You don’t need experienced people – we want to make the job easy for people starting up.” The company says the system can print directly on MDF, or on particleboard after the application of a filler coat.

Swiss sander manufacturer Steinemann reported that sales are very strong in the US and the Asian market is improving. The company has now supplied seven machines with the new SF system and taken its first order for this system in the US.

The German saw maker, Schwabedissen, was showing a complete double end tenoning machine which is modular and can be used in angular format to tongue and groove, trim or cut panel products. “Our main focus today is the board industry rather than furniture,” said Schwabedissen’s Arndt Bauer.

As usual at both Ligna and Xylexpo, Homag had an enormous stand accommodating its many subsidiary machinery manufacturers. Among many machines on display in Hall 15, Friz featured a profile wrapping machine customised to the customer’s requirements and an Optimat Masterform press for coating three-dimensionally profiled fronts. Saw maker Holzma showed its Optimat HPL 11 with automatic feed system and Powerline cross-cutting saw HQS 11 for cutting individual panels at up to 16 cuts/minute.

The majority of panel-related machinery manufacturers were in Hall 20 of the Milan Fair Grounds, thankfully. The layout of the venue, with halls largely arranged in a long line since the new extension opened at Xylexpo two years ago, means that much time and energy can be wasted walking between them. With several panel industry-relevant exhibitors (and the press office) in Hall 15 – about as far as you can get from Hall 20 – it is far from ideal.

However, the organisers tell us that the Fiera Milano Commissioners have assured them that a totally new venue should be completed by 2004.