The new products about which Dr Tocchio was speaking included a lowpressure laminate coating line, but with some special advanced features. “The feel and texture are particularly smooth,” says Dr Tocchio. “It is a haptic surface.” ‘Haptic’, to the uninitiated, roughly translated means the relationship between the touch and the feel of something – in this context, a surface – and this is much demanded now by customers for kitchen surfaces which feel as good as they look.

“And it is highly bendable,” adds Dr Tocchi, saying that it can be curved around very tight radiuses. So much so, she says, that it can be bent around the right-angled edge of a panel without snapping, so as to cover the edge as well as the surface. This eliminates the need for edge-banding – a costly and additional process – and also gives the edge of the panel exactly the same surface, colour and texture as the rest of it. And it can be used with any decorative paper.

“It is tough and anti-scratch,” says Dr Tocchio. “Fingerprints do not stick, so it stays clean even after many people have touched it.” And – a major advantage for many kitchen owners – “it can be easily repaired with heat”. So a damaged surface does not have to remain damaged forever. “We did not develop the technology, but we have signed an exclusive agreement to commercialise it,” says Dr Tocchio. “We are the manufacturing partner but the copyrights belong to Valentini paper group. Tests have been done with different customers. The equipment it needs is not too different from current systems. You impregnate the paper, then coat it with the new system."

She went on to say that a new plant is starting in Northern Italy to make the product and that in June the first products will roll off the line.

“A South American plant will follow,” adds Dr Tocchio. Tocchio International srl is known for making machinery for impregnation, and this aspect of its business continues uninterrupted.

“Ligna was good for us,” says Dr Tocchio. “And during the Interzum show which preceded it, we finalised a deal with Schattdecor for delivery in June 2018. “Europe is investing in refurbishing and updating lines; for example adding embossing systems to existing lines,” she says. “Kastamonu, the Turkish panel manufacturer, has bought a line in Italy and is refurbishing it – rumours say that Kastamonu wants a large share of the European market – and since the line they bought was originally installed by us, we are involved in re-furbishing it. Manufacture there is due to start next summer.

“An emerging market for us is South East Asia, where we have a project in Taiwan. We have developed techniques in the past year to control temperatures and save energy; and to control quality during impregnation. This we call our Environment Protection Energy Saving System (EPESS) and the system can be retro-fitted.

“Since 30% of a company’s energy consumption is in the impregnation line, the system pays for itself inside a year,” says Dr Tocchio.

“We have a project in Taiwan which is installing the system; the Schattdecor project will use it as well. It is a monitoring and control system. It automatically changes the recipe if something is not running properly. It monitors the quality of the paper and adjusts parameters accordingly. Because it makes quality control so much simpler it gives reliability to the product; variability and sub-standard boards need not happen.”

Dr Tocchio goes on to say that the company has other products which reduce the cost of production – and improve quality and reduce process time. “We have a laser cutter for flooring. Flooring papers are so abrasive that conventional cutting blades have to be changed twice a month – and at each change you have to close down the line for a day. Our system avoids that, so the line can run without stoppages.

“Similarly, we have designed a coater with a roller that can be removed and cleaned off-line. Again, conventionally the line has to be stopped for a long period for roller cleaning; but now, the dead time is cut to just two hours – and it can be added to existing lines without huge investment.

“We work very closely with our customers to solve ‘small’ problems like that, which together can be costing them a lot of money. But lots of ‘small’ savings can add up to big savings.”

Dr Tocchio cites another example: “On double-sided laminates, one of the rolls of decor paper has to go into the press face side up, the other face down. We have a system that turns the pallets over more simply and easily – and hence more efficiently and more cheaply”.

Tocchio has installed many of its systems for exact measurement of embossing papers – on-line measuring of the dimensions to great accuracy for in-register embossing, she explains. Dr Tocchio says that, again, this gives savings, especially for customers who do short runs, as there is less waste of paper.

“For European customers in particular, machines need to be more flexible, able to deliver shorter runs with very short start-up and change-over times,” she continues. “Our solutions help to deliver that, while another important element is recording what has been done – the settings, the recipes, the press speeds and through-put rates and so on. All of that enhances reliability in the final product; it means you can easily reproduce what you did before and I strongly believe that that is something in our soul. We specialise in finding solutions. We have the capability to offer flexibility to our customers. We never say ‘no’. That, too, is something in our roots.”

Dr Tocchio goes on to say that her company is recognised as being expert in retro-fitting: adding or upgrading components to existing lines, whether they are its own lines or the lines of others. Modernising an existing line, re-wiring to give automated control, moving whole lines from one location to another – her company is a leader in that field, and it demands a real and thorough understanding.

“You have to understand not just the basics of the machines, but the hidden things, the unique requirements and ways of working that each different machine has acquired over the years. It means that you build up a great capability and a great rapport, both within your team and with your customers. When a customer gives us 10 days to modernise, revive and re-start an old plant – well, if you cannot do it you make a great mess.”

Happily, Tocchio can do it. The company has received good investment and has good orders on its books.

“So we are still very much alive and in good shape” says Dr Tocchio. “We have never stopped constructing for a single day.” And Tocchio intends to continue that proud tradition