Xylexpo display space shrank to 32,178m².
ACIMALL will consult members on Xylexpo’s future.
• The Timber Machinery Alliance made its debut.
Weinig’s 3D profiling captured attention.
• Teknek’s cleaning technology is servicing the high-gloss panels market.

Warm sunshine played over Milan’s Rho fairgrounds for this year’s Xylexpo but there was no disguising the clouds hovering over the event itself.

Exhibitors were spread over just four halls compared with nine two shows ago in 2008.

Organiser Acimall said official visitor attendance was 43,295 – down from 51,480 in 2010 and 81,980 in 2008). Exhibitors totalled 515 over 32,178m² of space (2010: 42,500m²).

The principal reasons for fewer exhibitors and visitors are the poor economic situation and the presence of new rival woodworking machinery show Technodomus in Rimini just three weeks before Xylexpo.

It is a strange situation when Italy’s two largest woodworking machinery producers – SCM and Biesse – boycott the leading show and set up their own event on its doorstep.

Rumours of acrimony abound and last year Xylexpo’s organiser threatened to expel members who attended Technodomus.

Exhibition director Paolo Zanibon told the press during the event that a solution was now nearer that would culminate in a return to a single Italian show again.

TTJ was told that Acimall had completed a study of options for the future of Xylexpo, including the feasibility of moving it to Bologna, Verona, Rimini – or keeping it in Milan.

The results will be shared with Acimall members at the organisation’s general assembly in June and members will be encouraged to reflect on them, with a view to making a final decision in September.

Show highlights

But there was still much of interest to see at this year’s show. Italian saw specialist Salvador, which exports 90% of machines, demonstrated its range of automatic cross-cutting solutions, including the Superpush 200, SuperAngle 600 and Supercut 500.

It installed a machine – through UK distributor Daltons wadkin – only two weeks ago at Burnley furniture manufacturer Shipston & Sons.

The SuperAngle 600 can cross-cut at angles (+/-70°), processing beams for construction, as well as mosaic parquet and motorway sound barriers.

The Supercut 500 can process an impressive 1-5km per hour.

“We are increasing our share of the market but the market is getting smaller and smaller,” said director Christian Salvador. “We must think like a big company but be flexible and lean like a small company,” he added. “Ever customer gets a bottle of wine and a bag of pasta with special oils. We are a believer in service.”

A large cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure heralded the first appearance at Xylexpo of the Timber Machinery Alliance – a collection of Italian machinery companies who together can supply turnkey CLT and glulam production lines.

The Alliance sponsored the CLT conference held at the show, which featured 700 pre-registrations.

Alliance companies include Spanevello (finger-jointers, four-side planers and presses), Costa (sanders), Sorved 2000 (presses), Uniteam (CNC machining centres) and Dalso (automation).

Spanevello sales director Paolo Grandotto explained that the market for CLT was bigger in Italy than in Austria, yet there was not much production capacity in the country.

“The panels are produced in Austria and then come to Italy,” he said. “We’re thinking, why is that the case?”

He sees big potential for CLT following the new Italian government’s removal of restrictions on the height of new wooden buildings.

Weinig’s stand was busy as usual. Klaus Muller, Weinig’s head of communications, picked out the Powermat 2400 as an innovation attracting interest because of its 3D profiling.

Timber can be planed and given a decorative 3D finish all in one pass, opening up new product possibilities for furniture manufacturers and producers of decorative mouldings and outdoor products. Contours can be simulated on screen before processing.

The Weinig stand also featured the new simplified scanner Easi-Scan.

One innovative approach to hardwood lumber scanning was a French-designed system shown on German circular sawing specialist Paul Maschinenfabrik’s stand.

It uses cameras and mirrors in the machine to relay information on three screens, where an operator can use a joystick to electronically mark the position of defects.

Jean-Francois Portala, who developed the system, says it solves the issue of manual marking inaccuracy and the inability of automatic scanners to cope with variations in hardwood surfaces which are cosmetic rather than defects.

“Manual marks are not always straight and the fluorescent chalk mark has a thickness. All these small things add up,” he said.

Saving material costs

He suggested the system could save 10% in French oak material costs. “You are increasing your yield because you are working more precisely,” he said.

The software has a library of saved options for grading to different standards to make life easier and Mr Portala said the scanner improved health and safety by reducing handling of heavy timber.

Otto Martin Maschinenbau, which manufactures sawing, planing, shaping and drilling machines, was celebrating its 90th birthday with three new sliding table saws to complete its range – the T60A, T65 and T70.

Martin sales director Karl Zollitsch said changes to the machines included stronger frame construction and simplified electronic controls.

The table saws now feature a smaller, lower positioned control unit, though the larger units are still available as an option.

Mr Zollitsch said the entry-level T60A brought high-end technology under the £10,000 price barrier. “The UK is a very important market for us and we sold 40-50 machines there last year,” he said.

Martin’s UK agent used to be Axminster Tools but it now deals with several dealers across the UK.

Possibly the only UK-based exhibitor in Milan was contact cleaning specialist Teknek.

This innovative Scottish company, part of ITW Group, has products serving a variety of industries – including technology that cleans iPhone screens and flat-screen TVs during manufacture. The panels and furniture production industry, specifically membrane pressing, PUR and laminating operations, are relatively recent new applications.

The fashion for high-gloss finishes has increased demand for such technology because particles of dust and fibres caught under the surface are magnified in the finishes.

Teknek European sales manager Douglas Gray said the problem was so bad for one kitchen and bedroom furniture manufacturer that only 37% of output was saleable. This improved to more than 90% after installing Teknek cleaning equipment.

Technology comprises elastomer rubber rollers which pick up dirt and transfer it to engineered adhesive rolls.

So far Teknek has about 15 installations in the UK – including at Decorative Panels – and one of its systems was demonstrated on the Homag stand.

Teknek is also talking to Barberan and Bürkle about incorporating its technology in their machinery, while in the UK it is working with MPS Machines, a specialist supplier of thermoforming machinery.

In the sawmilling machinery sector, the Italians were out in force – although EWD of Germany also had a stand.

Bongioanni said it was near to closing a deal with an English sawmill. Its log carriages, bandsaws and chipper canters have been installed in the likes of Binderholz – which bought a complete new line recently, including a SNT1800 bandsaw with log carriage, automation and chip collection. Keck and Pfeifer are other customers.

Bongioanni exhibited its new SRO 1100 horizontal band resaw with a feed speed of 40m/min and featuring two constant pressure blade guides, electronic blade positioning and centralised automatic lubrication.

A log carriage featured special clamps to reduce stress on the logs.

Now part of Pezzolato, the company was established in 1907 and its UK agent is Lancashire Saw CompanyLtd.

Homag was once again one of the biggest exhibitors and new innovations included the Venture 320 CNC machining centre featuring integrated edgebanding unit, the Venture 316 entry-level machining centre, the 3D woodCAD/ CAM software and Weinmann WBS 140.

Homag unveiled its BMG 300 Venture CNC machining centre series (high output, minimal outlay) at Ligna last year. A new feature this year was the Venture 320 with an integrated powerEdge edgebanding unit.

The smaller entry-level Venture 316 brings five-axis technology to the joinery market for under €100,000 and features LED positioning for vacuum pods.

The woodCAD/Cam software offers free design in 3D, allowing complicated components to be processed when linked to five-axis technology. It becomes data supplier for ERP systems and manufacturing controls, with component drawings, cutting and part lists, plus CNC programs all generated for the machine operator.

Good reaction

Meanwhile, Weinmann said its WBS 140 beam processing centre had created a good reaction at the Dach+Holz show. The five-axis machine features a toolchanger to allow processing of CLT, timber frame and glulam beams.

Weinmann managing director Hansbert Ott said German carpenters told him the machine would leave them with nothing to do. “I calculated that it only took three days of operation per month to reach a break even position for the customer.”

Mr Ott said machine flexibility to produce a range of systems – CLT, timber frame and glulam – was important. “CLT is not the only future. CLT combined with timber frame and integrated services and insulation is the future,” he said.

New UK installations for Weinmann include Framewise and TJ Crump Oakwrights Ltd.

Biomass boiler exhibitors included Polytechnik of Austria, whose international installations include the former Finnforest blockboard factory in Romania, now run by Schweighofer, and some 30 Russian sawmills.

Sales manager Bernhard Häusler described the UK as an interesting market but said the lack of expertise of some renewable energy consultants who drafted tender specifications was not helpful. However, Polytechnik hopes to secure one or two UK contracts this year.

Uniconfort had the largest biomass boiler show presence.