Sep 8, 2016
A week passed since the successful conclusion of the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta on August 27, 2016. With over 25 product categories such as custom wood working, veneers, flooring, doors, and accessories spread over more than 500,000 square feet. The show drew over 26,000 participants and 1,080 exhibitors some attended educational sessions and most walked the show in search for new product, innovations, as well as sourcing materials for their projects.
As a veteran presenter at ‘IWF’, InfoTrends again focused on promoting the use of digital and 3D printing among users in this industry via series of educational sessions aimed at fostering understanding and demonstrating successful implementations of digital as well as 3D printing technologies. Meanwhile, the conference program at IWF 2016 included other digitally-focused presenters, namely Cefla, Formica, Hymmen, KBA, Kodak, Mimaki, SFC Graphics, and Strategic 3D Solutions, sessions were teeming with show visitors, all looking to expand business opportunities and considering digital print options for doing so.
As to the show floor, IWF’s 1,000+ exhibitor included many offering digital printing equipment, including a few show regulars such as Barberan, Cefla and Hymmen, each with a range of products for direct and décor paper printing. This year it was good to also see a few thought leaders from the graphics arts industry with equipment exhibits, including Mimaki, Roland DG and Vanguard Digital. These are in addition to some inroads made via joint collaborations by vendors such as Agfa, Canon and DURST over the past few years. Show attendees had a positive reaction to the presence of a range of solutions at the event from printers for small production sites to full manufacturing lines.
This 2016 IWF show was proof positive of the impact that digital printing is now having, as many of the suppliers of high-pressure laminates; custom wood wraps as well as direct-to-product decorating solutions are now made using digital print technology. From products by Columbia industries & ATI decorative laminates, Greenlam America, Greenline Industries, North American Plywood Corporation, Schattdecor, to Wilsonart and many more offering several forms of digitally printed woodworking decorative surfaces.
Printed decorative surfaces, of course, are hardly new: High pressure and low pressure laminates have been making use of gravure printed decorative layers for decades, and the same is true in direct panel printing. The resulting materials are in use in residential and commercial projects wherever durability and cost effectiveness are required and natural materials are either too expensive or scarce. With a growing demand for quicker turnaround as well as customization, though, many manufacturers of laminates and flooring are now offering custom designed products that are produced digitally. A few of the most notable offerings include Formica Envision, Schattdecor Digital and WilsoartXYou. However, the ability to print directly onto surface or décor paper is enabling many more producers, big and small; to take advantage of digital printing technology and to dramatically improve their supply chains and product range. Such is the case for Interprint, a multinational company that adopted KBA RotaJet 168 high-speed inkjet solutions in 2015. Meanwhile, there is the example of ATI Laminates, a much smaller company but one using a sublimation inkjet device (similar to those being offered by Mimaki, Roland and Vanguard, all exhibitors at IWF).
A key element of digital printing in the built environment is the ability on ink to adhere to woodworking or other decorative surface. Several ink types were in use by producers and equipment manufacturers at IWF:
UV Inks. UV curable inkjet was present in products from Barberan, Cefla, Hymmen, Mimaki, Roland and Vanguard. UV curable ink is one of the most versatile inks used in digital printing as it adheres to most surfaces with simple or no pre-treatment. UV ink cures well on a solid surface and provides good permanence in terms of scuff resistance and minimal fading. With proper post coating UV printed surfaces can be used in a range of applications including horizontal, vertical and high traffic surfaces.
Sublimation inks. These inks are different in concept and chemistry from UV inks. Sublimation inks are transferred to the surface using printed-paper; the transfer occurs while pressing and heating paper and ink onto the surface, causing the ink to sublimate into the receiving surface. On an untreated wood or veneers, the transfer creates a translucent image that adds character to the final products. With proper final coating, sublimation-type inks are typically used in vertical panel applications.
Water-based inks. Water dispersed, pigment-based inks are used in the production of décor paper for laminates. For example, Kodak, which presented part of our sessions at IWF, is using nano-particulate pigment ink that has no mesmerism effects. Practically this means that products printed with this ink will look alike under any lighting conditions. This is critical for high volume manufacturing where the decorated surfaces are on display under different lighting conditions, which can vary greatly from the retail environments where they are initially displayed to the home or office environments where they are ultimately installed.
Another lesson from the immense IWF show floor is that with a broad range of possible print materials and inks, the digital solution choices are broad. Just a few examples will show the range: small standalone product such as the Mimaki UJF-7151; Cefla PixArt Plot; big manufacturing lines enabled by Hymmen Jupiter products. Overall, digital printing is making its way upwards in the wood working industry, enriching residential and commercial environments with rich patterns and visuals and enhancing the business outlook for builders and designers worldwide.
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