AWISA has been run and won with many believing that the 2016 event in Melbourne was the best ever. The figures support these claims with around 9,000 visitors and a further 2,000 returning for one or two more days.

AWISA 2016 was a great success with the majority of exhibitors and visitors’ claiming it was the best ever. This result comes despite a projected mild downturn for the remainder of 2016 and a likely slow start to 2017, according to industry sources. Sales records were set by many of the exhibitors and some serious numbers were recorded by the biggest suppliers. The final attendance was the second-best on record, only slightly less than the record numbers at the 2004 show. In Melbourne more kitchen and bathroom manufacturers attended than ever before, showing the strength of this market segment in Victoria.

There were many machinery highlights at the show. Homag’s amazing robotic panel sorting cell stood out mainly due to its impressive size and the complete absence of operators. At every show worldwide Homag city offers something new and innovative and they didn’t disappoint at AWISA. SCM and Gabbett made the headlines with the announcement that Gabbett would join the SCM group. Mr Luigi De Vito, SCM Group Woodworking Machinery Division Director said: “The Group can now consolidate and boost its market share in Australia.” Biesse delivered at AWISA, announcing $9.5 million in sales, justifying its position as a premium supplier and adding to the group’s “Year of records.” The Wood Tech Group impressed with a significant exhibit including the first ever safety (retractable blade) panel saw from Griggio and Schelling’s S45 tilt-able blade beam saw.

Felder showed its commitment to the Australian manufacturing industry with a considerably larger presence than in Brisbane two years ago, demonstrating both Australian and European window manufacture on its CNC equipment. Altendorf always draws crowds no matter where they go and the new-look panel saws released at Ligna last year drew plenty of attention. From Woodtron, an expansive display of CNC machines was overshadowed by the new Woodtron Cube board storage system. Multicam was again there in strength showing expertise not only in the wood sector but numerous other industries as well. From Western Australia, Beyond Tools demonstrated the new and cost-effective Samach CNC nesting machines by Oltre Pro. And Leda cannot be overlooked with its KDT angle edgebanding machine with inclinable milling heads, glue pot and pressure rollers.

Weinig showed the entry level Powermax 700 moulder with re-designed dust extraction hoods for better air flow and a host of other design initiatives. The group’s Holz-Her Lumina zero glue-line edge banding machine has been re-designed to allow a change of glue types within a few minutes. And finally, the new multi-tool technology for cutter units, shaping cutters and radius scrapers for the Holz-Her edge banding machines was shown for the first time in Australia. If you were wondering about the new zero-edge technology, rest assured that there are more machines in Australia than you would think. One of the drawbacks was the supply of edge tapes but Surteco, with 25 years in Australia, reports a growing stock of colours especially for the new fusion edges.

CAD software is essential to manufacturing and CAD suppliers were out in force with the very latest programs not only for design and manufacturing, but sales as well. Modern software is a powerful tool and suppliers such as CAD+T impressed with their program that takes 2D drawings to 3D models. Design2Cam software is a windows-based drag-and-drop program that’s very simple to use. 3D Kitchen goes from strength to strength with the latest reiteration of its popular product design package with even more stunning graphics. Planit is one of the oldest names in CAD CAM software and boasted the largest stand of any software provider to display their Vortek Spaces and ELaser products. QuickCam presented its SpeedCut nesting program; IDACS displayed Palette Cad and Pytha the exquisite virtual reality 3D design.

Some of the biggest exhibitors were the hardware and board suppliers and, more than ever, these displays set the trends for the next two years. At AWISA 2016 the absence of knobs and handles coupled with smooth motion was really evident. As Andrew Gray from Hafele said: “If it’s not soft-close, it’s broken.” This pretty much set the scene for all the hardware suppliers with a huge range of product inspired by the latest European trends, most recently seen at EuroCucina in Milan.

Worthy of special mention here is the ultrasonic dowel joining and Stefano Orlati LED lighting by Titus Tekform; the iMOVE ergonomic overhead storage solution and Loox lighting from Hafele; lifestyle design and engineered quartz-based Essastone from Laminex; compact laminate hinges and InnoTech Atira drawers from Hettich; Decosplash aluminium powder-coated splashbacks and Peka storage solutions from Lincoln Sentry; L&S emotion lighting for remote control of warm to cool lighting from Wilson and Bradley; Fenix nanotechnology surface material by Nover; anti-fingerprint Legrabox drawer storage solutions from Blum; slim door hinge and Nova Pro Scala individualised drawer system from Grass; new ergonomic laundry bins from Hideaway Bins; Duropal XTreme anti-fingerprint post-form grade laminate from Bench Top City and plug and play cabinet movement systems from Linak.

Stone and plastic processing had a larger presence this year with stone processing machinery exhibits from Breton, CDK and Intermac (Biesse). Add panel lifting equipment from Millsom and Kockums; ducting from Ezi-Duct, Coral, Airtight Solutions and Micronair; sanders and wall-saws from Ville-Tec and tooling from Leitz, Leuco and Camco and there were hundreds of reasons to visit this great show.
AWISA has become much more than a woodworking exhibition and now incorporates everything you need as a modern manufacturer. The site for the next show is yet to be announced but the new venue at Darling Harbour or a return to Melbourne is highly likely. The organisers will need to crunch the numbers and see what the best option for the industry is. Wherever it is, it’s guaranteed to be sensational and a credit to the organisers.

For our full report, see our print edition available September.