AWISA is our very own International trade show for the cabinet; joinery; furniture; timber and panel industries. In recent years it’s moved from the old Sydney exhibition centre at Darling Harbour to Brisbane, then Melbourne while a new facility at Darling harbour was built. Returning to Sydney this year, the show attracted record crowds of satisfied show-goers and the organisers have just recently announced that it will return to the same venue mid-2020. You can expect that one to be even better than this.

AWISA was held at the new Sydney International Convention Centre (ICC); a facility spanning multiple levels. The AWISA organisers put a lot of effort into making the venue work and very soon, any concerns about upstairs-downstairs were quickly dispelled. The reality was that for the design exhibitors upstairs, you could actually hear yourself speak and for the machinery exhibitors downstairs, the various stands seemed more accessible. One or two exhibitors may re-think their stand location for the next show but every exhibitor Supplier spoke to praised the event and the facility and will be back again in two years.

The highlights from AWISA were everywhere. CAD design and manufacturing software continues to impress with World-leading software available to the Australian manufacturer. It’s getting easier to use; more powerful; more visually appealing from a design viewpoint and generally supports the latest industry 4.0 efforts for more total control of your equipment and manufacturing processes. This year, software platforms emerged to control even more of your manufacturing processes. All the major suppliers can provide a suitable software platform not only to control the machinery; but to report on its efficiency; allow remote access and control; troubleshoot any problems that may arise and predict maintenance issues. The major players can all provide overarching software for their computer based equipment. For example, Biesse has Sophia, released at the last Ligna show and SCM has Maestro Connect, released more recently at the Xylexpo fair in Italy. There is more to follow with Homag ‘turning-on’ their Tapio platform in the US recently and planning to release it in Australia in the very near future.

Machinery highlights

On the machinery front there were many highlights. One that caught our attention was the Anderson GS Series of nesting machines from Wood Tech Group with a magnetic drive similar to what is used for the high-speed maglev trains. A series of magnets push and others pull the work-head up and down the axes at speeds unheard of before this machine. No wear and tear, less noise, incredible acceleration of the axes resulting in an almost 50% reduction in machining times. Anderson uses the maglev system on high-speed drilling machines used for example, in the drilling of PCD boards and their most widely known customers are Boeing and from this year, Airbus. They have a 25-year history of building their own drives and claim the GS series of nesting machines will have a 15 to 18 year minimum lifespan.

On this machine there are no moving parts to move the X and Y axes and this saves on maintenance and reduces noise. The machine weighs 20 tonnes and this completely eliminates vibration. It has to be heavy due to the incredible speeds the machine is able to achieve. On other equipment the drives may take up to 300mm to reach the claimed travel speed but on the Anderson GS machine this can be achieved in an (almost) unbelievable ten millimetres. Wood Tech has done successful tests with 10mm compression tools at 60 metres a minute. Wood Tech claim the drilling time is around a third of the time of their competitors. All this value comes at a price though, with the Anderson costing around 20% more; but with this machine doing the same amount of work as two others, the cost is of little concern.

Also from Wood Tech we saw the Australian-made ‘Hive’ robotic vertical panel management system that in its 360-degree version will store up to 2,000 components on only 100 square metres of floor space. Homag exhibited a robotic storage cell in Melbourne last AWISA to quite a lot of interest so the technology is certainly welcome in Australia. The more common system of automated board storage uses available floor space that many companies don’t have, especially those that are already established. The Homag and Wood Tech systems, along with the WoodTron Tower all utilise unused air space within the factory. The Wood Tech ‘Hive’ is manufactured by Australian companies and Wood Tech’s Ron Smythe says “The Hive can do 3,800 movements in a seven and a half hour shift. Most manufacturers have one or two production lines with around six people sorting parts and the Hive eliminates the labour, mistakes and damaged panels.”

Woodtron continues to improve its vertical panel storage system that doesn’t rely on floor space and mixed stacks of panels. Geoff Sellman came up with the original idea that was exhibited as a concept in Melbourne that sold really well. Unlike most automated warehouse systems that stack panels in (often) random order; the Woodtron tower keeps every board type separate and is ideal for just-in-time manufacture. Other improvements include cables to catch the board if the vacuum fails; and the capacity to store 60 colours. And if you really want to prepare a ‘rainbow’ pack the night before, you can with the Australian–designed Woodtron Tower. They’ve added some additional safety features and now it’s available as a double-sided system that allows several bays to increase storage capacity. Using standard Dexion shelving, the system is very cost-effective.

From Homag we saw the continuing development of operator assisted working with their intelliguide operator assist system. intelliGuide is the first assistance system in the history of panel dividing technology that enables saws to respond to the actions of the machine operator in an intelligent and flexible manner. This means that you have full control over cutting and benefit from ideal processes. intelliGuide has a modular structure. It becomes more intelligent with each stage of expansion: from intelliGuide basic, to advanced, right through to professional. There is no longer any worry about machining the wrong part; intelliguide makes sure of the right part every time and if the wrong part is inserted, the software will alter the program so the right processing is done to that part.

Where the operator assistance system is used on edge banding machines, two LED strips in the area of the workpiece infeed clearly show what the operator should do. This is achieved by the workpiece dimensions being displayed on the LED strips. The strips light up in different colours, thereby providing specific handling instructions. Homag have committed to assisting the worker to get the most out of their machines now for the last twenty years or so. Machines can only run so fast and the operator needs to be as smart as the machine to get 100% of the benefit of the machine technology.

The Homag Group also presented part of an automated cell previously displayed at the Xylexpo in Milan where it won a special award. On top of a beam saw sits a robot that is integrated into the saw machining cycle. No operator involvement is required to cut the parts of sort them onto several pallets. In the fuller version the robot takes the panels from the saw and feeds them onto either an edge banding or a CNC line with either standard or vertical CNC processing centres. It’s beautiful to watch and all the major players can supply a solution to meet every need.

Not at AWISA but soon to come to Australia; SCM Group has a new combined end cutting and rounding unit for edge-banding machines that combines end cutting and rounding operations, executed with one tool, allowing the design of machines with a small footprint. It won first place at the Xylexpo awards a few months ago and is great news for someone who needs a fully-functional edge bander in a small package.

Stefan Kremer from Felder Group was there on Felder’s biggest stand to date with Dave Ackland from FSA (Window Solutions) demonstrating a European-style window processed on standard spindle moulders. There is little doubt that this type of joinery will figure strongly is building design as the World moves towards preserving precious resources and Australia will be no exception. Felder has for many years championed this type of joinery construction and their equipment does the job very well.

Time as a resource was the focus in developing the new Felder Tempora edge-bander series. Processing edges needs to be as quick, easy and efficient as possible. Tempora features convincing; completely revised, solid machining units for the highest demands in a new design built on a solid, heavy-duty machine base-frame incorporating precise dust extraction. The m-motion and x-motion Plus control ensures highest repeatability in setting accuracy and allows users to generate individual machining programs and to minimize setup time for fast processing and material change. If you need an automated panel warehouse system and your preferred supplier is Felder, rest assured because they now partner with Barbaric to provide a solution to your panel storage issues.

Multicam now uses WIFI to transfer programs to the machine. They have auto-squaring of the panels and automated vacuum, based on the sheet size. The vacuum is also automatically focused on the area where the cutting tool is travelling. Multicam are making 150 machines a year and sell to large-production companies like Winnebago, Stratco and Jayco. Twenty years ago there were dozens of brands of these flat-bed routers but these are mostly all gone, however Multicam remains. They have their own people to write software for a wide range of applications, and develop their own drives and one-off jigs for specialist production.

Altendorf Group was showing off their new company profile that now includes the Hebrock edge bander. There’s likely to be more news later this year when another brand may be added to the newly-named Altendorf Group, quite possibly a CNC processing machine. At AWISA an Altendorf panel saw with a cut-away table was on display to highlight the robust construction of this much-loved classic.

From Holz-Her we learnt that the beam saw cutting carriage is now raised with a ball screw and servo drive and that only the sawblade is raised for the cut, not the whole motor assembly. It’s more precise; a lot faster and because the drive belts loosen when the saw blade is lowered, they last longer. Of interest at the Weinig/Holz-Her stand was the ‘Storemaster’ automated warehouse that was fitted in between all of their show machines, proving that you don’t need to have a large open area to use such a system. The Weinig Group recently installed a Storemaster warehouse in a company that included a board turning device to flip panels over to apply labels. Seems that anything is possible these days, you just have to ask.

Ville-Tec celebrated a birthday at AWISA this year. 22 years ago on 4th July 1996, Peter Ville-Buille started Ville-Tec. Today they still sell the Swiss Streibig brand of vertical (wall) panel saws in addition to Costa wide belt sanders and Gannomat glue dowel insertion machines. Costa has just built a new factory to produce wide belt machines wider than three metres. Costa doesn’t just sand wood but is proficient in a wide range of materials.

If you were looking at something a little smaller and less costly than a five-axis machine, Beyond Tools could provide it. Their Rikon brand was released two years ago in Melbourne with only a few machines. Since then they have sold in their thousands and it’s not surprising. Rikon is built by the Chinese ISO9001 certified QCR company and they produce bandsaws for many of the World’s machinery suppliers. We won’t mention them here but rest assured that up to the best bandsaws available from anyone, QCR is probably the manufacturer. Beyond Tools does not sell the Robland brand anymore, replacing that with the Rikon brand.

Another new brand from Beyond Tools is TOUGHCUT. The brand was founded in Perth last year by Tony Mirabile. The range is named after the minerals West Australia is famous for like rutile (edge banders) and zircon (CNC processing). The machine colour is orange, based on the colour of iron ore. The brand is inspired by the West Australian ‘Tough’ family brand that made machinery from 1912 to 1991.

Ausmach is a new company supplying machinery to the Australian market. Well-entrenched in the industry with a range of leading software under the IDACSPLUS name; the company supplies CAD, CAM and optimising software that you would instantly recognise. Ausmach is similar to the Wood Tech Group in that they import equipment from several reputable overseas suppliers. Their equipment currently includes CNC machines; edge-banders; beam saws; sanders; panel saws and dust extraction systems. In fact, everything required for kitchen and bathroom manufacture. Ausmach’s exhibits at AWISA included the German-made OTT edge banders and the new German-designed WOODPLUS CNC nesting machine with feed and outfeed tables.

Hardware highlights

In the design hall we saw many leading products from the many international suppliers. Notable amongst these was the Blum Aventos HK Top; a very neat push-to-open stay-lift for overhead cabinets. The new Aventos HK top stay lift, released May 2017 is less than half the size of the superseded Aventos HK model. It has a new clean-cut design that harmonises beautifully with cabinet interiors. Blum’s latest lift system for stay lifts is easily installed close to the top panel so it blends into the furniture. Two different fixing systems make the installation of Aventos HK top quick and easy. You can either use pre-mounted system screws and pegs or chipboard screws and an integrated template. The product is symmetrical and can be mounted to either side of the cabinet. The newly designed, minimalist cover caps come in different colours and give great freedom of design. Aventos HK top can be equipped with three different motion technologies: soft-close Blumotion, the Servo-Drive electric motion support system or the mechanical Tip-On opening support system.

Two similar hinges have recently come onto the market and they are almost identical in design and application. The first is the Salice ‘Air’ corner hinge that won the Interzum “Best of the best” award in 2017. Air is described as “An innovative and revolutionary hinge which, despite its compactness and small size, delivers full functionality to furniture manufacturers.” The hinge is fully adjustable in three directions and also incorporates an integrated soft close mechanism for decelerated closing or the Push self-opening system for handle-less doors. Air is inserted into the top and bottom of the cabinet and the door and is practically invisible. Its small size means that the applications for Air are numerous: kitchens, bathrooms, living and bedroom furniture or display cabinets. A very clever compact design, imperceptible and unseen just like air: Salice says “Air is the new fusion of technology and aesthetics.”

The other is the Tiomos hidden from Grass. It’s almost identical to the Salice Air, however on close inspection looks a little more refined. Grass states that “With the development of the Tiomos hinge system, GRASS has written a new chapter in the history of furniture design. With the concealed Tiomos Hidden hinge, which was launched at interzum 2017, GRASS has added another component that makes it possible to move doors elegantly and almost invisibly.” Andreas Marosch, Head of Marketing at GRASS, describes the company’s approach “Customers want to express their personality with personalised furniture design. The technical components should be designed so that they take a back seat behind the furniture design or provide a specific aesthetic aspect in addition to the pure function.”

The latest product from the Tiomos series is a perfect example of this product philosophy: it really takes a back seat behind the furniture. Even better, it becomes one with the furniture and thus becomes almost invisible. The concealed Tiomos Hidden hinge is recessed in the cabinet and thereby is flush with the surfaces of the door and of the inside wall of the piece of furniture. However, in terms of functionality, it certainly is not second-best compared to its visible colleagues: it is unusually strong, and can be adjusted in three dimensions. Tiomos Hidden features a damping mechanism in the closing action and allows for an opening angle of 105°. The minimum door thickness required is 18 millimetres.

Hafele showed the Connect smart home, released last year at Interzum to huge crowds and great interest. Hafele Connect links and controls lighting, sound and furniture movements through their plug and play system, either through an app or a voice-activated controller they call ‘echo.’ It almost looks like they’ve skipped several stages of invention and gone straight into the next century. It’s no small claim to say this will change the way people live. Hafele actively pursues innovative technologies such as new design for inspiration to interior designers; and pushes the technology and design for small-space living. Be it a special drawer in which to charge your devices; cupboards that lower electronically for easy access; or parts of a bench top that pop up to reveal oft-used kitchen appliances or cookware, Hafele had a lot to show.

Hettich impressed with several advanced products including their Wingline L folding sliding door system. The product is suitable for wardrobes; alcoves like under-stair spaces or in top mounted kitchen units. Wingline L is a ‘Push-Pull to Move’ opening mechanism that opens an entire door set with just one push or pull, with or without a handle. The fitting opens a surprisingly large section of the entire cabinet, leaving more space in the room. Because WingLine L keeps door protrusion to a minimum there is nothing to get in the way of drawers and extensions.  The product creates panoramic effects and design flexibility. The judges liked that the product can be used under stairs and sloping ceilings as well as in alcoves. The folding door fitting provides a way of using this potential storage space and making it look attractive.

Hideaway Bins premiered their Concelo bin at the show to a huge amount of interest. Seven years in the development, this product from the New Zealand family owned and operated company Kitchen King has taken just about every consideration into account. From installation and six-way adjustment; full extension so the rear bin can be removed without taking out the front bin; sealing of odours through an automatic active lid to cleaning through the simple removal of all cleanable elements. Cleverly designed and much more than just a bin, this product shows what some effort, good design and clever thinking can do to a product that is equally as important to a kitchen as the refrigerator or dishwasher. This product is an appliance in every sense of the word. The system is push-to-open compatible and the installation at bench height is the ideal position for removing food scraps. Concelo is clever, smart, well-designed and is superior to every other waste system on the market.

Vauth Sagel introduced their Cornerstone MAXX corner unit solution to Australia at AWISA. The product was launched in May 2017 and has recently been nominated for the German Design Award 2018. The innovative system for corner cabinets brings the contents of two tray-like shelves fully in front of the unit. The often badly or even completely unused spaces in the corner unit are made usable in an extremely comfortable way. CORNERSTONE MAXX does not obstruct the adjacent units as it swings out and comes to rest fully in front of its own unit. Also from Vauth Sagel was the newly developed VS COR Spin corner unit, previously known as Galaxy Spin 90. The doors retract fully and allow the corner unit to spin through a full 360 degrees, brake after one turn and close the doors automatically. It will spin both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.

IoT Software

IoT software is about the new Industry 4.0 philosophy. IoT stands for the ‘Internet of Things’ and is the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these things to connect and exchange data. The concept was discussed as early as 1982 with a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University that became the first Internet-connected appliance able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold. It’s estimated there will be 30 billion devices and a global IoT market value projected to reach US$7.1 trillion by 2020. It’s fair to say that you will be hearing a lot more about IoT in the future.

SOPHIA is Biesse’s IoT software platform, developed in collaboration with professional service company Accenture. Sophia is an acronym for Services; Optimisation; Predictivity; Human; Innovation; Analysis. Based on the connection to a cloud service and special sensors applied to Biesse machinery; technical data on the performance of your machine is collected in real-time and used by the Biesse services platform to improve productivity and predict maintenance requirements. The manufacturer can access reports and data required to make decisions about his machine performance, all on his mobile device. Sophia also connects with a parts portal for ordering of replacement parts. Sophia also won at the Xylexpo technology awards in Milan only a few months ago.

Sophia is a digital platform that provides users with access to more machine information and initiates concrete actions to optimise performance and monitor the quality of the work produced, anticipating the causes of faults and providing clear solutions to resolve any anomalies. Sophia creates a digital infrastructure to underpin modern manufacturing. The data gathered and analysed by artificial intelligence is transformed into useful data to help optimise customer production and product quality, providing extremely valuable opportunities for growth. This information also provides customers with tools to prevent problems that could damage production. Thanks to SOPHIA, Biesse can take proactive steps to contact customers, reducing machine stoppages and inefficient time-wasting.

Over the past five months, connected machines have registered a 60% growth in productivity and the platform has highlighted that Biesse has handled more than 2,000,000 events of various types. “The results registered over these first few months demonstrate how the services we offer our customers help increase the operating time of a machine and promote a proactive approach by reducing diagnostic times by 80%,” states Stefano Calestani, the Group’s new service innovation director.

All of the major machinery suppliers are actively pursuing IoT software. At AWISA SCM Group presented their Maestro Digital Systems platform Maestro Connect. Only released recently at the Xylexpo fair in Milan, Maestro Connect is SCM’s IoT (Internet of Things) Industry 4.0 platform that collects and analyses data retrieved from SCM machines to monitor and optimise production processes. It enables full control of production performance by the manufacturer. It also allows other services such as predictive, timely and smart maintenance and optimized spare parts management. Maestro Connect is not just a maintenance app; it’s an intelligent production aid that observes actual production data and is able to plan corrective actions.

Maestro connect is able to offer customised micro services through the use of IoT Apps that support the daily activities of industry operators and improving the availability and use of machines or systems. Maestro connect works to connect the SCM Machines to the internet; monitor, examine and analyse data; collect all cloud-based machine data and finally, decide and act to improve production-related issues. What you get is a system that reviews machine status both live and on a historical basis. The representations provided allow machine availability to be checked to identify possible bottlenecks in the production flow. It monitors instantaneous, live operation of the machine and its components and currently running programs. It provides you with lists of machine programs run within a given timeframe with best time and average running time and finally, displays alarms, both active and historical warnings.

SCM Group’s Maestro Connect also provides a first approach to predictive maintenance by sending notifications when machine components indicate a pre-determined critical state. In this way, it is possible to take action and schedule maintenance services without any down-time. By constantly monitoring the use of components, Smart Maintenance offers a genuine condition-based maintenance service that allows action to be taken based on the efficiency of the components. Smart Maintenance also makes SCM’s support to customers more specifically targeted and faster through a constant flow of data from the machine to the Service suppliers.

This year the value of AWISA to suppliers of machines, tools, equipment and hardware was evident in the high number of overseas supplier principals that attended the show. Product experts were everywhere to explain and demonstrate the many new pieces of equipment, software and hardware at the show. The upstairs design hall was no exception where the very latest design elements from around the World were on show. It was an exceptional experience and every visitor took some new ideas from the event. The suppliers were very pleased as well, with most reporting excellent sales from the show and many reporting sales records broken, an indication of the strength of Australia’s wood manufacturing sector.

AWISA is much more than a local show; it’s an international event and brings the very best the World has to offer to the local trade. While attracting fewer visitors than the more densely populated countries, AWISA punches above its weight in terms of quality; value for money; visitors per capita and relevance to the local industry. Ligna in Hannover; Interzum in Cologne; AWFS Las Vegas (all three in odd-numbered years) and Holz-Handwerk in Nuremberg this year are the international shows most likely to be visited by Australian manufacturers but AWISA is the one not to be missed and a record ten thousand visitors gave it the thumbs-up.

Pictured: Blum Minipress