As crowds pour into IWF 2022, the massive halls of the Georgia World Congress Center—1.2 million square feet packed with more than 925 exhibitors—are positively brimming with the latest advances in materials, technology, and services.
The pandemic did not stop advances in the development of equipment and consumables. And woodworkers have continued to adopt better methods of production. But now, IWF resumes its pivotal role as a catalyst for making these things known, disseminating education, information, and live presentations on the floor.
IWF also is a trigger point for technology and materials releases, with news of significant initiatives embargoed until the show floor has opened. Two examples are the seven Challengers Award winners announcement and a host of new introductions among First Time Exhibitors delivered continuously in the IWF 2022 Newsmakers channel.
Macro trends driving major market shifts include the transition to a post-pandemic recovery; supply chain concerns pushing buyers to seek reliable sources closer to home; and the chronic labour shortage, heightened as Baby Boomers retire and with an insufficient workforce in the much smaller GenX age bracket.
As a result, suppliers are expanding domestic capacity; launching automated systems and robotics to handle routine materials in-feed and offload; and optimizing plant production with MES, short for Manufacturing Execution Systems, basically, an ERP that focuses solely on networking equipment and even manual work cells on the plant floor.
Here’s a run-down on significant segments of products that are answering the shifting requirements of wood manufacturers in every segment.
Materials: Digital Wood Finishing Goes Mainstream
Wilsonart, Garnica, Cefla, and Hymmen have boosted their capabilities in digital decorating, while Canon, a newer name in the wood industry, is showing remarkable surface texturizing and coloration using nothing more than UV-cured inkjet printing. Major panel manufacturers deliver more realistic and colour-consistent panel surface images and improved texturization with embossing tightly registered to the printed graphic, all digitally driven.
Equipment: Better Technology and More Integrated
Regardless of size or production scale, it is nearly impossible to talk about woodworking equipment—saws, boring machines, CNCs, edgebanders—without discussing the software that operates them. Indeed, the biggest news on this front is the izywood initiative, which establishes a common language for machinery to talk to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).
But smarter equipment is everywhere, from the widely available robots and automated materials infeed and offloading systems in work cells; to the new breed of safety saws with machine vision and artificial intelligence to avoid injury; to the hand-held CNC router with expanded and simplified design programming.