The former, on France’s west coast, has become a beacon for timber materials in the form of the biennial Carrefour International du Bois exhibition, while the Rho fairgrounds in Milan becomes one of the world’s hotspots for machinery innovation at the Xylexpo exhibition.

Some good timber innovations were going on at Carrefour, where visitor numbers were up 10% to 11,500 this year, with the UK representing the fifth largest contingent. Exhibitor numbers were up to 560.

Hardwood glulam, CLT and 3D cladding profiles in thermally-modified wood were just some of the highlights.

A Carrefour debut was also made for France’s new €10m timber promotion campaign.

At both shows there has been a proliferation of virtual reality smart goggles – at Xylexpo you could literally don the glasses and “walk” through the workings of a production line rather than do a lengthy project visit.

There is an increasing move towards digitalisation of the timber products factory, with enhanced data flow, higher efficiency and a reduction in time to turn.

Also in Milan, coatings technology producer Giardina claimed to have new drying technology using nitrogen that turns a gloss finish into a matt one – potentially a big saver in finish costings and reducing downtime on production lines with no need to change the paint system for a matt finish.

In the UK, we also attended two of the trade’s largest representative organisations annual events – the Timber Trade Federation’s AGM and the British Woodworking Federation’s Members’ Day.

At the BWF event, members were given a fascinating look at the new types of housing predicted to increase in the future, such as stacked flats where each dwelling has it own ground floor front door. And “back to back” houses with no back garden were another housing type tipped for growth by speaker David Birkbeck of Design for Homes.

At the TTF AGM, news included a forthcoming focus on cladding, in collaboration with the Timber Decking & Cladding Association, and the federation will continue to push the preservatives agenda. On the hardwood front the TTF plans a flooring focus, with continued promotion to architects, designers and other specifiers.

And as we went to press we attended the first Wood Technology Society conference (the last one it held was in its former guise as the IWSc 10 years ago).

Hosted by WTS’s parent organisation, IOM3, Timber 2018 looked in detail at ongoing research in wood science. The highly technical conference included presentations from materials scientists, engineers and even a former psychologist and environmental scientist. Look out for the report next month.