The possibilities with Thermally Fused Laminate can far extend those than natural wood.
“Humidity can warp natural wood, but TFL is engineered to exist in such an environment without any defects,” said Robert Scarimbolo, VP of Sales and Marketing at M2M Panel Processing Solutions Inc.
M2M Panel Processing Solutions Inc. is a B2B supplier of made-to-measure cabinet fronts and components for the woodworking industry. It was founded by three partners who have pioneered market trends, product development, and technology in the woodworking industry since the 1990s. They are widely recognized as pioneers of laser and seamless edge band applications in North America; their products are made to world-class European standards.
“It can resemble real wood veneers without having to worry about what can go wrong,” he explained. “Or when a customer wants a black panel, if you use natural wood, you’re going to see every single imperfection. You don’t have that problem with TFL.”
Some people like that look, but for others who are going for a clean-cut or contemporary style, TFL is a better option, particularly when it comes to something as precise as cabinetmaking.
I chatted with Scarimbolo about the latest technology in panel processing. He was quick to point out that acquiring new technology is the easiest part. Learning how to use it, maintaining it, and keeping it up to date are the really challenging parts of owning a sophisticated piece of equipment.
“Technology changes faster than we can adapt, which is why when you invest in a machine, it’s important to get to know it and use it properly,” Scarimbolo explained.
I wanted to know his thoughts on adhesive versus laser edge banding. Often, people seem to fall into one camp or the other. Scarimbolo described it as a bit of a love/hate relationship.
“I don’t think one is better than the other. Both are unique; both need the right finesse,” he said. “Machinery salespeople push trends, but when it comes down to it visually, they’re about equal.”
M2M offers both techniques.
“We don’t use EVA glues anymore, only PUR. But not all glues are created equal,” Scarimbolo explained. “We’ve been gathering data for over ten years of edge processing. There is no one solution for everything.”
He pointed out how many factors can impact adhesives, everything from climate to altitude. Something that might be tried and true in Europe won’t work in North America. Humidity levels can affect not only the curing time but also the durability of the product. It’s so sensitive to the environment that they have to carefully schedule when they use which equipment on the shop floor. Usually, they run the laser edge bander in the morning and work with adhesives in the afternoon.
“Laser edge banding is completely different,” he pointed out. “It’s definitely the dominant technique, and people like it because it’s anti-microbial – which is great for kitchens and bathrooms – and certain materials work best with a laser edge. But you can’t just run a laser over everything; it partly depends on the colour.”
Scarimbolo pointed out that most companies don’t offer both techniques. M2M is unusual in this respect.
“The big advantage to being able to do both is that you can have a greater inventory because you can do more things,” Scarimbolo explained. “True, it makes the products more expensive, but that’s because we’ve made the investment in the technology to be able to offer a greater variety. Inventory is king.”
But it isn’t just about the technology they use in the shop; it’s also about the technology that runs the business.
“So many companies are stuck in the stone ages. A lot of companies still take orders over fax,” he said. “We developed a portal for online ordering, and it’s changed our business. We get 90% of our orders come between the hours of 10:00 PM and 2:30 AM. That’s when most small business owners have the time to place their orders.”
Scarimbolo admitted that they used to be one of those companies stuck in the Stone Age and that introducing this software caused a ripple effect. Not only did it help them become more customer-friendly, but it helped ease the company into the world of digital marketing and finding a better way of showcasing their products.
“I foresee wood becoming more of a luxury product,” he said. “TFL has the longevity that people are looking for.”