In the timber and woodworking sector, achieving maximum efficiency and productivity used to be the exclusive preserve of large industrial-scale operations with the clout to invest in CNC, full optimization and integrated production systems. However, thanks to technology transfer and innovation, these technologies have been accessible to a much wider group of companies for some time. Even highly specialized joinery, cabinetmaking and carpentry operations are increasingly opting for digitalized production solutions to boost their competitiveness and achieve industrial-scale clout. And they have a wide range of solutions to choose from, thanks to technology providers’ successful efforts to broaden their market base by smoothing out the distinctions between industry and trade. With its new hall layout plan, this year’s LIGNA will reflect this important trend. The Tools and Machinery for Custom and Mass Production display category, for instance, will feature the full range of solutions for companies of all sizes at one convenient location.
The latest generation of CNC systems on show combines improved performance with a smaller footprint and easier operation. This is part of an ongoing trend, which explains why these systems are now in widespread use in smaller companies. The latest entry-level machines comprise both all-rounder and individually configurable models that offer three to six-axis machining in a single pass. Other, more complex machines can cater for different-sized blanks and perform a wide range of operations, from machining standard panels to complex 360° shaping of solid wood parts. Many of the CNC centers at this year’s LIGNA also offer nesting functionality in addition to standard operations, such as routing, drilling and sawing. Combined five-axis machining and edge-banding technology is becoming increasingly common, as are CNC centers with a footprint of under five square meters (54 sq.ft.) – perfect for smaller workshop-style operations.
Today’s entry-level models for window and door manufacturers offer much the same functionality as the high-cost solutions of yesteryear. Here too, the offering ranges from stand-alone compact machines with clearly defined standard features to modular, freely configurable models with integrated surfacing processes. A new age of technology has also dawned in the timber construction sector. For example, the latest generation of compact carpentry machines now offers sophisticated functionality, such as six-axis high-speed processing.
Another key trend in the spotlight at this year’s LIGNA will be the transition from stand-alone systems to integrated solutions, with more and more companies right across the size spectrum automating and integrating their operations. Owners of small workshops will be pleased to learn that integration has now matured to the point where it supports start-to-finish production line processing of small lots and custom, one-off manufactures. Communication between the individual components of these integrated systems is made possible by intelligent workshop solutions, including standardized machine operation systems and specially designed software. Another trend that’s causing a stir in small-scale woodworking operations is the rapid evolution of combined sawing-and-storage systems for individual panel production. These systems are extremely efficient in that they support one-person operation and combine elements of both logistics and production, thereby doing the job of multiple machines. Woodworking shops now also have access to small-scale edge-banding machines that are capable of producing the kinds of seamless finishes that were once the exclusive domain of the big players. Some of these machines even feature automated return conveyor systems, effectively streamlining workpiece flows and reducing manual labor.
Even scanner surface detection technology is now expanding its reach beyond the factory halls and into the smaller workshops of the world, thanks to compact design and lower entry-level prices. Offering high-precision wood quality optimization and sorting, the technology yields marked increases in value added. The compact models currently coming onto the market offer scanning and detection performance comparable to that of the top-end models and integrate well into existing production systems.
The dynamism in the high-tech entry-level segment of the woodworking machinery market promises benefits for all processing stages and applications. LIGNA is the trade fair of choice for anyone who wants to reap these benefits and find out how they can optimize their business. No other wood industry event anywhere in the world even comes close to presenting as many innovations by international market leaders as LIGNA (22–26 May 2017, in Hannover, Germany).