Many timber processors pressed the capital investment pause button after the 2017 general election. According to several moulder producers, plans to install new hardware went on hold while companies waited to see if the government would survive and how Brexit negotiations would finally take shape.

“The solid wood market was impacted more than others by Brexit, the weaker pound and elections, which killed it for a few months,” said Gabriele De Col, managing director of SCM UK.

In the latter part of 2017, he maintained, solid wood manufacturing “regained its flare”, although others feel that, while orders are being placed, customer confidence remains fragile.

“It seems to depend on whether latest media coverage paints Brexit as the best thing ever or a disaster,” said Weinig UK managing director Malcolm Cuthbertson.

The turbulence of recent years, say manufacturers, hasn’t itself inspired new technical directions in moulders, but has focused minds even more on existing key development paths. In a competitive, unpredictable market, they say, users want even greater speed and power versatility, ultra rapid set-up, to be able to switch seamlessly between batches, bespoke and long runs, and precision to avoid costly errors.

Even more emphasis is placed on those cost-saving, yield-increasing, accuracyenhancing elements – automation and control systems. It’s not quite all about the software, but it’s an increasingly critical factor. Moreover, the trend to trickle down top-end technologies to even entry-level moulders is accelerating.

Mr De Col points to SCM’s SET-UP system as an example.

“This allows operators to change tools and perform adjustments in seconds,” he said. “From a single manual adjustment all units line up automatically and we’ve also focused on the digital interface of the Mobile PC, now utilising the Eye-M touch screen console.

This enables even smaller companies to turn traditional machines into Industry 4.0-compliant technology, able to collate information about productivity, tool life span and operator efficiency.”

SCM’s latest software is its Maestro 4-side system. “This identifies tools installed and, if the programme requires more, alerts the operator what to change,” said Mr de Col. “Included in the Mobile PC option, it also generates detailed reports and machine statuses.”

SCM has also launched two new models of its ‘workhorse’ Superset NT, which feature two right vertical spindles. This range is additionally offered packaged with a Windor NT1 machining centre, “creating a productive solution for standard doors and windows”. The option has recently been bought by LJS Joinery, “enabling substantial production growth”.

A good proportion of Leadermac UK’s time recently has been spent managing a turnkey project for hotel fit-out specialist Firemount International Ltd in Mauritius. “It comprises over 50 machines, including Leadermacs and other technology,” said Leadermac UK managing director Kevin Wright. “It’s quite an undertaking.”

This distraction, however, has not slowed down Leadermac’s introduction of new machines, new moulder capabilities or completion of significant UK installations.

It continues to roll out its ProSet automated set-up system. Now based on Siemens technology, this minimises downtime and error by ensuring rapid, precise automated set-up, and links to tool room and the ProStand tool-measuring device. “It’s also very affordable,” said Mr Wright. “We’ve just proposed a 6-spindle Hypermac, including latest controls, with automated axial and radial positioning systems, to a kitchen manufacturer for £140,000.”

Leadermac, he added, has also expanded its involvement in automated materials handling, now offering over 100 machines for series and parallel-connected production lines.

“To date, we’ve mostly married our moulders to other manufacturers’ equipment, but we expect ours to become increasingly popular and I’ll be seeing new systems at our Taiwanese headquarters,” said Mr Wright. Among latest moulder models, Leadermac has just introduced the HSM hand-scraping 4-side series for producing textured flooring. This operates up to 30m/min and features servo motor-driven spindles and latest automated control systems.


Meanwhile recent UK installations include two 7-spindle Hypermacs at Garrards Timber. “These 8,000kg machines also have automated set-up and positioning and tool room data connection and have already boosted productivity,” said Mr Wright. “In fact, they may install another at sister company James Chambers.”

Leadermac has also installed a 5-head compact, customised for 320mm workpieces, at T&T Flooring ( Key machines in the Daltons Wadkin line-up include the Kuper XS and XL. “The XS offers outstanding quality and value for small to medium businesses,” said director Francis Dalton, “while the multipleoption XL is favoured by larger users,

notably fitted with Siemens’ K2 touchscreen programmable system, including tool store memory and automatic setting.”

An order for the latter, he added, has just been secured at a specialist window maker, whose clients include the Houses of Parliament and Alexandra Palace. Daltons Wadkin attributes relatively low recent activity in refurbished moulders to the increasing trend toward higher technology to offset industry-wide skills shortages.

“We’re ever more aware of the deficiency in skilled operators,” said Mr Dalton. “This both increases the need for comprehensive training at installation and results in customers seeking easy-to-use moulders, including disposable tipped tooling as old-style tool rooms disappear.” Mr Cuthbertson bluntly describes the aim of Weinig moulder development as the “elimination of skills”.

“The average price of our Powermat 1500, targeted at medium-sized operations, is now 20-25% higher than four years ago, and that’s due to higher technology levels,” he said. “You’ve now got a machine that tells you which direction to rotate every axis of every head, with all-electronic readouts giving two lines of numbers telling you where you are and where you need to be. It effectively says ‘do as you’re told’.” Next in line for skills elimination, he added, is the tool room.

“Last year we launched our breakthrough automated Rondamat 1000 CNC grinder, where the operator virtually just has to load up block and knives,” he said. “It’s £140,000, but we’ve sold five in six months, and anticipate selling another five this year.”

A recent moulder launch from Weinig is the Powermat 700 Classic. Targeted at the operator who might use it for two or three hours a day, this still has plenty of technology, said Mr Cuthbertson, but focuses on the “need to have”.

At the other end of the spectrum, Weinig is increasingly installing its 80-100m/min Powermat 2400s with handling equipment to match. “This enables the moulder to operate to its capabilities,” said Mr Cuthbertson. “Installations in the primed MDF market especially have created outstandingly productive solutions.”

Homag describes its latest launch, the four-strong MOULDTEQ M-300 four-side planer moulder series, as a “milestone”.

“The introduction of planer moulders to the range underlines Homag’s commitment to offer high quality machinery for every stage of the solid wood processing chain,” said Simon Brooks, Homag UK managing director. Initially known as the LPP 300, the MOULDTEQ M-300 series comes in five to eight-spindle variants, with feed speeds from six to 24m/min and spindles that can be separately programmed from 4,000-8,000rpm, thanks to individual motors. Each model is equipped with tool management and Homag’s quick set-up proLock spindle clamp system. They also feature its powerTouch control system, allowing users to load and select processing programs with “just a few touches on the 21.5in monitor”.

“The MOULDTEQ M-300 series combines state-of-the-art technology with solid mechanical engineering,” said Mr Brooks. “It’s a game changer for small to mediumsized manufacturers.”

The latest developments from Ledinek include its upgraded high-speed Multiplan for moulding, decking and flooring production. An adjustable guiding fence ensures rapid set-up, horizontal spindles are equipped with support spindle bearings, vertical spindles are directly driven and axial and radial setting is fully automated.

“The cherry on the cake is the Ledinek Tool Manager,” said the company. “Its contactless tool measuring device flows data to the PLC control for automatic setting.”

Ledinek has also developed its thicknesscalibrator and active-assisted vertical spindle floating to deliver “unmatched material savings”.


As for the future, moulder producers say the focus will be ever-more intelligent machines that “assist operators in every production phase and minimise manual intervention”. At its Rimini headquarters’ Digital Days customer event, SCM even demonstrated use of ‘smart glasses’ with its equipment; “bringing woodworking to the operational level of the aerospace industry”.