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QUALITY CULTURE, QUALITY CABINETS SURFACE TECHNOLOGY: HIP HAPTICS

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INNOVATION AND INVESTMENT

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HARDWARE ROUNDUP 2011 LAMINATE: ALWAYS ON TOP OF FASHION

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Use your smartphone and QR Code app to read Interprint’s magazine, The Leader.

Interprint’s

Materials

Studio

Because décor that inspires a market is often created from materials found in that market.

Interprint, Inc. 101 Central Berkshire Blvd., Pittsfield, MA 01201 413.443.4733 www.interprint.us

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Innovation by definition is “to make changes.” It is also a running theme in the industry events of 2011. During the extended recessionary period bold companies did not sit on their hands and wonder when things would get better, they looked to the future and prepared for it. They made changes in their product lines or introduced new products. They recognized that producing high quality products at a lower cost requires staying on top of worldwide design trends and investing in production systems. And they also knew that building market share by taking it from their more timid competitors would be easier in a fearful environment. Consumers are looking for style and design in affordable products. IKEA did not just stumble on this concept. It is part of their DNA and they have elevated the model to an art form. Smart companies are taking a page from their playbook. Unfortunately, other companies have remained frozen at the switch, unwilling to invest in the two critical elements which can propel them forward, design and technology. The recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show held in Las Vegas at the end of April was full of surprises. It was unexpectedly well attended and business was brisk. Kitchen and bath professionals came to the show looking precisely for that combination of high style and low cost. Yet some exhibitors were caught off guard, the ones who displayed the same old products from pre-recession times. They had low expectations and got precisely what they anticipated. Others made bold product introductions incorporating the latest design trends and had a constant flow of traffic. Retailers and kitchen and bath designers were looking for fresh ideas and found them mostly in the booths of surface material and component producers. Advanced Technology Incorporated (ATI) and Northern Contours, to name a few, had a continuous flow of traffic. Executives from large cabinet manufacturers sought out spectacular textured surfaces in TFM, HD effects in 3DL and matching horizontal design concepts for cabinet doors and drawer fronts. After all, in the world of design it’s not the cabinet box that sells, but what the consumers see. Stiles Machinery recently convened its annual Executive Briefing Conference (EBC) focused on the theme “Innovation” at the 3M Innovation Center in St.

An upcoming opportunity to learn about the innovative systems and fantastic new surface materials making waves around the world is the Decorative Surfaces Conference (DSC) held in Miami, November 1-2.

Paul, Minnesota. Since 2002 the EBC has been a yearly tradition for forward thinking companies. Some may have the misconception that the EBC is just an opportunity to showcase equipment, but nothing could be further from the truth. Executives from some of the finest companies in our industry, both large and small, met for two days to hear presentations from successful industry peers, nationally recognized manufacturing consultants, economists and industry experts. Together they explored “what’s now, what’s new and what’s next.” The networking opportunities were unmatched, and I encourage you to take advantage of this first class event. For more information on the 2012 EBC, contact Amanda Dombek at 616-698-7500 or dombek@stilesmachinery.com An upcoming opportunity to learn about the innovative systems and fantastic new surface materials making waves around the world is the Decorative Surfaces Conference (DSC) held in Miami, November 1-2. The conference has a very international flavor and is the premiere event for the latest in surface design trends, new materials, techniques and practical applications for residential and commercial interiors. See pages 6-7 of this issue for more information, or go to www.surfaces-conference.com. The recipe for success is simple, combine great design with innovative technology. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend the Decorative Surfaces Conference. If you are an interior designer, specifier or charged with the selection, application and use of surface materials for your company, this conference is for you. I hope to see you there! All the best,

John Aufderhaar Publisher, Surface & Panel • jaufderhaar@surfaceandpanel.com surface&panel

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Q2 2011

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Quality Culture, Quality Cabinets In the highly competitive world of kitchen cabinet manufacturing, Pacific Crest Industries deviates from the norm in many refreshing ways.

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Surface Technology: Hip Haptics Designs used to be specified in terms of color and composition, but now more than ever before there is a textural component.

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Clearly Captivating Considering that resin panels are both a panel product and a decorative surfacing material, it is worthwhile to take a look at the facts behind the fashion. 8

PUBLISHER

John Aufderhaar Surface & Panel Magazine 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 PH: 920-206-1766 FAX: 920-206-1767 jaufderhaar@surfaceandpanel.com www.surfaceandpanel.com

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Innovation and Investment The Stow Company celebrated its 25th anniversary with a 25 percent increase in revenue, a new brand identity and several product launches.

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It’s Been A Wild Ride…Where Do We Go From Here? When it comes to sales, I think it is safe to say we all got better this year. Do you know why? We had no choice!

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Hardware Roundup 2011 Each year KBIS spotlights the latest innovations in kitchen and bath products. Here is a look at the trends in functional hardware that are driving design.

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Lightweight Panel Primer Technological advances in surfacing materials and edge treatments have resulted in impressive gains in performance and design possibilities for lightweight panels, making the honeycomb cell construction a viable option for many furniture and millwork applications.

ADVERTISING

Ryan Wagner, National Accounts Manager Surface & Panel Magazine 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 PH: 920-262-2080 FAX: 920-206-1767 rwagner@surfaceandpanel.com CIRCULATION

Michelle Bruhn/Surface & Panel Magazine 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 PH: 920-674-6943 FAX: 920 206-1767 mbruhn@surfaceandpanel.com

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Laminate: Always on Top of Fashion Laminate has always been a fashion statement, and the engineered nature of the material makes it perennially relevant.

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Learning Curve Flat-Lining for Design-Manufacturing Software Interface Architects and designers have more options to integrate with the production floor.

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Suzanne VanGilder/Surface & Panel Magazine 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 PH: 608-698-0375 FAX: 920-206-1767 svangilder@surfaceandpanel.com DIGITAL MEDIA DIRECTOR

Laura Rowlett/Surface & Panel Magazine 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 PH: 317-417-6624 FAX: 920-206-1767 lrowlett@surfaceandpanel.com DESIGN/PRODUCTION

Karen Leno - KML Design, Inc. 923 Forest Edge Circle, Coralville, IA 52241 PH: 319-430-5108 kmldesign@mchsi.com COMPOSITE PANEL ASSOCIATION MAIN OFFICE

19465 Deerfield Avenue, Suite 306 Leesburg, VA 20176 PH: 703-724-1128 FAX: 703-724-1588 Toll Free 1-866-4COMPOSITES www.pbmdf.com CANADIAN OFFICE

Post Office Box 747, Station B Ottawa, Ontario CANADA K1P 5P8 PH: 613-232-6782 FAX: 703-724-1588 INTERNATIONAL TESTING AND CERTIFICATION CENTER

73 Lawson Road, Leesburg, VA 20175 PH: 703-724-1128 FAX: 703-724-1588 www.itcclab.org

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[ D E P A R T M E N T S ]

3 From the Publisher 24 Regenerate America’s energy needs and a balanced proposal for using wood fiber 56 Architect Spec Nils Finne, AIA, principal of the award-winning FINNE Architects 64 Advertiser Index 66 From the Editor

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Throughout the issue, keep an eye out for this “web extra” icon, an invitation to more information available at www.surfaceandpanel.com. While you're there, check out the community site, where you can connect with industry experts and weigh in on discussions.

ON THE COVER

When Nils Finne of FINNE Architects recently renovated his Seattle home, he took the opportunity to explore materials and processes that intrigue him.

Surface & Panel is published bimonthly by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc., 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, Wisconsin 53098, telephone 920-206-1766, fax 920-206-1767. John Aufderhaar, President, Christine Aufderhaar, CFO. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical without written permission from the publisher. Subscription policy: Individual subscriptions are available, without charge, to manufacturers who engage in panel processing, qualified service providers and suppliers. Publisher reserves the right to reject non-qualified subscribers. One year subscription to non-qualified individuals: U.S. $50, Canada/Mexico $75, all other countries $100, payable in U.S. funds. Single issues are $15, and must be prepaid. Bedford Falls Communications, Inc., does not assume and hereby disclaims any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions in the material contained herein, regardless of whether such errors result from negligence, accident, or any other cause whatsoever. Printed in the U.S.A. Postmaster: Send address changes to Surface & Panel, 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098. Please direct all subscription questions and mail to: Surface & Panel, 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 PH: 920-206-1766

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ANCHOR


BOISE CASCADE FIXTURE GRADE

ANCHOR (Surface&Panel) 01-26-2011 OUTLINE.indd 1 SandP_Q211.indd 5

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We are pleased to invite you to the 2011 Decorative Surfaces Conference and Workshop. The DSC and all western hemisphere conferences presented by TCM Americas are a partnership between Kurt Fischer, founder of Technical Conference Management (TCM) and John Aufderhaar, founder of Bedford Falls Communications, Inc. The technical program covers a wide range of topics from architecture and design to market research and technical innovations, with a focus on the selection, application and use of the latest surfacing options from around the world.

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Image provided by Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com

Welcome to Miami

The 2011 DSC will be our best conference yet with a wide range of new technologies, new design ideas and the latest advancements in surfacing materials from around the world. Each and every presentation will prove interesting and useful to both the surfacing professional and interior designer. Here is just a sampling of the topics and presentations you’ll witness at this year’s DSC.

Light weight panel in practice consumer acceptance at the retail level

Polyester 5-piece door trends accelerating in kitchen, closet and beyond

Hotel Information The conference will be held at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle, 19999 West Country Club Drive in Aventura, Florida 33180. Turnberry Isle is located between Fort Lauderdale and Miami and is accessible by both Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports. A limited number of rooms have been reserved for delegates and sponsors at a negotiated rate of $195 per night plus taxes. Reservations can be made at the conference website www.surfaces-conference.com or directly with the hotel at 786-279-6770. Be sure to mention you are with the Decorative Surfaces conference group to secure the negotiated rate.

Purchasing professional what’s a dream vendor? Spectacular decorative resin panel applications a primer for the design specifier

Surface materials impact on mood and productivity in the office environment

Surface & light a critical interaction A resource librarian’s omniscient view Powder coating turns the corner opportunities are endless The latest in TFM design trends

Italian engineered veneers – how did they do that? And a compendium of global applications

The latest in surface materials textures that sizzle The casino king when this industry specialist talks, everyone listens!

HD laminates continue to gain in popularity State of the Industry in home office furniture The “edge” as a design element The latest advances in edge treatments

3D laminate use in high-end architectural wall systems Latin design influences CEU – introduction to surface materials

DSC E x e c u t i v e A d v i s o r y B o a r d

John Beck | Sauder Woodworking John Benson | KapStone Paper Jean Briere | Shaw Industries Kenn Busch | Material Intelligence Stephen Canary | Panolam Industries Dave Field | Interprint Michel Fortin | CDM Decor Papers Terry Jenkins | KapStone Paper Scott Laprade | Interprint Lee Miller | OCI Melamine Vitali Panov | Hexion Specialty Chemicals Holbrook Platts | Platts Laminate Technology James Scott | Onyx Specialty Papers Linn Yeager | Southern Chemical Corporation

For more information and to register, please visit

www.surfaces-conference.com sponsorship opportunities are still available

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Image provided by Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com

HPL, TFM and 3DL matching programs a designer’s view

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QUALITY CULTURE

Quality Cabinets B Y

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n the highly competitive world of kitchen cabinet manufacturing, Pacific Crest Industries, a family-owned business operating in Washington state, deviates from the norm in many refreshing ways. It seems odd to characterize one of the finest frameless semicustom cabinet manufacturers as honorable, yet it is Pacific Crest’s commitment to serving the greater good that drives its investment and innovation. CEO Steve Bell believes that the beginning of quality is culture and that business done well can make the world a better place. “Clients are impressed with our beautiful product and our clean, high-tech operation, but our greatest asset is our people component, our intellectual equity, who we are and how we are driven,” says John Brush CKD, CBD and director of marketing for Pacific Crest. “At Pacific Crest we have a set of core values that drives our business and keeps us focused. They are: respect, responsibility, integrity, stewardship and excellence. And they come into play in everything we do, the vendors we choose, the dealers we want to work with and the people we

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hire. The key is sticking to those core values. It is a component of our business that draws people to us and makes them want to do business with us.” For most end users, framed or frameless construction doesn’t matter, they just like the look. Ultimately people align with people who they can connect to. Frameless construction requires Pacific Crest to manufacture within tighter tolerances than the face-framed alternative. But it also allows for practically limitless finish options because there is no gap between doors to account for. Pacific Crest’s door front offering will please any materialista: stained and painted wood, Brookside engineered veneer over edgebanded slabs, striated HPL designs from Wilsonart or Formica, high gloss in ABS or thermofoil over MDF from Northern Contours, and an imported thermally structured laminate pressed with dramatic texture fused to particleboard. Pacific Crest even offers Lumicor translucent panel inserts in addition to traditional acid-etched glass.

surface&panel

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Pacific Crest offers three product lines of fully assembled cabinets, Bellmont, Amero and Bellmont 1600, all of which go to market via a distribution network of about 200 independent kitchen dealers nationwide. The versatility afforded by frameless construction means that Pacific Crest does traditional, transitional and modern styling well and is able to offer their products across several different price points. “Full-access construction is gaining traction and growing as we come out of this recession,” says Bell. “I think there is a renewed interest as space becomes a more important element of design. Right now it is really pretty amazing. Our business is actually growing again, in large part because of the products we build.” RESPECT

Bell got his start in the 1980s building a face-framed product for kitchen remodels in his small shop. “I was reading all these trade magazines and it certainly looked to me like the frameless cabinet was going to take over the world. And I wanted to be on that ride,” says Bell. “I didn’t have enough room in my shop to do both types of products, so in late 1986, early 1987 I went cold turkey into frameless. I bought a little edgebanding machine, a sliding table saw and a 23-spindle Ritter line boring machine. I learned about the 32 mm system and started building a frameless cabinet. That is all we have done since then.” Kitchen cabinetry is an extremely precarious business in today’s marketplace. “The industry has shrunk by almost 70 percent in the last four years, it has been a world changer for sure,” says Bell. Part of what allows Pacific Crest to remain competitive is respect for one of the fundamental concepts in economics, that markets are not created, they are served. To do this Bell and his team devote a good deal of 10

effort to understanding both the kitchen cabinet industry in general and the needs of end users. Bell has a simple schematic that he uses for explaining the North American kitchen cabinet market and Pacific Crest’s place within it. Think of a triangle with three horizontal lines. The top bit is custom. The mid-section is semi-custom, and the bottom is stock. According to KCMA statistics the semi-custom segment is the only segment that had any growth last year. Overall the entire industry shrank another 4 percent in 2010. Semi-custom remained even while both stock and custom lost ground. “The breadth denotes the volume of these segments in the last three or four years,” explains Bell. “The highest-end custom cabinet market has been decimated, almost literally, off more than 70 percent. All those guys who are still surviving are trying to move downward in price and scope to get into that semi-custom middle area, where we are. Now at the bottom you have all the stock manufacturers, who are getting eaten alive by the Chinese imports, and they are all trying to come up.” RESPONSIBILITY

In recent history, frameless cabinetry has made up roughly 12 percent of the overall market, and according to Brush that number is steadily growing. The increase of framed products offering “full overlay” doors with specialty hardware to achieve the look of frameless construction supports this observation. So what is driving consumer kitchen trends? After 25 years in the world of fashion and design, Brush has some good insights into what is influencing current buying decisions. “Look at the change in demographics. The largest part of expendable income is still baby boomers remodeling, but that is declining. A lot of the baby

www.surfaceandpanel.com

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“It is important to respect what is culturally generationally relevant, that flows all the way through styles and finishes to price. And price drives construction and materials.”

boomers have seen their retirement funds slip away, so they are more likely to spend $20,000 than $100,000. And baby boomers have been the mainstay of this mid-upper price range for the industry,” explains Brush. “Now we are looking at generations X and Y. They are driven differently. Gen X and Gen Y are driven by the look of a cabinet. They aren’t so into details like handcrafted dovetails in drawers. Instead they are heavily influenced by technology and more open to engineered aesthetics. Think urban loft, stainless steel, horizontal wood grain, high gloss, metal edgebanding. It is important to respect what is culturally generationally relevant, that flows all the way through styles and finishes to price. And price drives construction and materials.”

In February of 2011 Pacific Crest launched its new Bellmont 1600 line to respond to the void in the transitional and contemporary side of the value stream. “With our 25 years of experience building only frameless cabinets, we looked for opportunities within our body of knowledge to figure out how to build a full access cabinet for less money, and offer a product that looks like luxury,” says Bell. “And we think we hit it out of the park.” By making minor modifications and offering a limited set of standard finishes, Pacific Crest was able to make great looking cabinets more affordable. Bellmont 1600 complements Pacific Crest’s other offerings. The flagship line, Bellmont Cabinetry, provides full custom flexibility while the Amero Cabinet Collection brings great selection and superb quality when full-custom isn’t required. High-quality Salice hinges are used throughout all of Pacific Crest’s products as are Blum tilt-ups, lift-ups and glides. INTEGRITY

There used to be basically two models of cabinet manufacturers, the stock operations that build to inventory, and the just in time producers. “Part of the secret of our success is we are blurring those lines with technology,” says Bell. “It is not necessary to build thousands of parts to get the economy of scale when you have machinery that can build every part exactly accurate.”

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The quality of a frameless cabinet depends on two things; box alignment and edgebanding. “I think it is the degree of precision that makes the difference,” says Bell. “In face framed cabinetry everything hides behind the face frame. Frameless requires every cut to be absolutely chip free because the panel being cut is what will be seen. The edgebanding has to be absolutely precise. The matching has to be 100 percent dead on or else boxes don’t align and you have irregularities and out of square boxes. That is why it is rare to see anybody who does both frame and frameless and does either of them well.” Pacific Crest builds carcasses in-house out of Birch plywood finished with a UV coating and TFM or vinyl over particleboard. They also offer a NAF “eco-box” that is made from 100-percent recycled content. Several different board suppliers serve Pacific Crest, including Collins, Roseburg, Boise Cascade and Timber Products. “Everything we use in our plant is CARB II compliant and meets the EPP specification,” says Brush. Pacific Crest uses outsourced door suppliers for miter-cornered doors and thermoformed door fronts, but processes most of its five-piece doors, along with all dovetailing and flat-panel options in-house, including wood and painted products that are made from 100 percent MDF core. Accountability throughout operations is achieved through Pacific Crest’s Insight ERP that interfaces with 20/20 design software. “We are in the process of integrating a 20/20 platform that goes from dealer/ designer all the way through, generating bill of materials, purchase orders for outsourced components, optimization and assembly, all the way through to packaging which reads a barcode and builds boxes on demand,” says Bell. Beyond convenience, this new system will enable Pacific Crest use resources more efficiently. And if there is one driving factor behind Pacific Crest’s operations, it is social responsibility.

STEWARDSHIP

“For us sustainability is a part of who we are. We have a holistic approach that isn’t just about the responsible materials we source, it is about the way we live our lives,” says Bell. “We recycle everything than can be recycled, our trash, our finishing materials, even the very air that goes into our building that circulates. All of our lighting is high efficiency and used in conjunction with natural light. Plus we have variable frequency drive motors on our dust collectors.” But Pacific Crest does a lot more than just manufacture responsibly. Despite Steven Bell’s finely honed business prowess, his intention is not to take over the world. In fact, it is to help it. “We’re involved in a lot of community and humanitarian efforts, giving back to the community and giving back to the world at large. In fact, our primary motivation for being in business is to make the world a better place,” says Bell. And he means it. A peek at the news portion of Pacific Crest’s website reveals a list of philanthropic efforts and awards too long to list here. One global example is the company’s adoption of a village in El Salvador through Argos International, an organization that developed a successful model for helping people break the cycle of poverty. Pacific Crest also devotes time and resources to local efforts such as Habitat for Humanity. Though Bell will speak passionately and in great detail about Pacific Crest, or the humanitarian programs he is passionate about, he probably won’t mention the many awards he has received, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Besides building great cabinets, Pacific Crest promotes a culture based on respect, responsibility, integrity, stewardship and excellence. “We learn from others, they learn from us,” says Bell, “and together we grow.“ s&p Vawn Greany, CKD, CBD shares her insights to kitchen and bath trends at www.surfaceandpanel.com

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www.surfaceandpanel.com

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BRINGING SURFACES TO LIFE You are going places. We want to go there with you. No matter what kind of project you are working on, with over 200 colors and patterns we’ve got a laminate you can use. www.arborite.com 1.800.361.8712 Visit us at Neocon 2011

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FINISHING DOOR FRONTS

Manufacturing Excellence

From the door department wood and veneer front pieces move through the sanding station to the finishing department where they are hand- stained with a gun. Then each part goes through the finishing line four times. Two Cefla EZ 2000 reciprocating spray machines apply a clear, catalyzed conversion varnish from Sherwin Williams that has no measurable level of hazardous air pollutants (HAPS) and extremely low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “We do a seal coat on the face and on the back and then a final topcoat on the face and back. The piece is hand sanded in between applications,” says Bell. The Cefla EZ 2000 sprays 30 percent more efficiently than hand spraying, and the majority of the overspray is reclaimed and reused. “They are great machines,” says Bell. “The Cefla’s can push a ton of product through at a high-quality consistent thickness.”

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acific Crest Industries operates out of an 185,000 square foot facility that is laid out after the European model with transfer lines and sliding transfer tables. To ensure consistent quality for its semi-custom cabinet operation Pacific Crest developed a quality control program called CORE, which stands for creating ongoing reliability through excellence. “We have identified 160 steps throughout the whole manufacturing facility. We build storyboards that we use for training, documentation and accountability,” says Casey Bell, operations manager for Pacific Crest. In addition to building boxes with extraordinarily tight tolerances, the company produces flat panel and five-piece doors (both wood and composite) in house. Pacific Crest is in the process of implementing Insight, an ERP developed by 20/20 to manage their semicustom, somewhat vertically integrated work flow.

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TIGHT AND TIDY BOXES

Frameless cabinet boxes are judged on two things, box alignment and edgebanding. To address this Pacific Crest’s equipment is calibrated every four hours and the results are logged to track variances. That happens on the three Holzma panels saws, three edgebanders (a HOLZ-HER and two new Homags, a KL600 and a KL700 that Bell refers to as “the best of breed in the world”), the balancers and the two Weeke point to point machines. All of this vigilance is necessary for perfect box alignment. “If you are irregular or have a bunch of chips on your edges it looks horrible,” says Bell, “so we run premill machines on our edgebanders even though our panel saws cut very clean. We still go the extra step to make sure the edge is perfect.” Every machine in the plant is designed for one-off manufacturing and instant changeover. The emphasis on edgebanding means that Pacific Crest stocks a wide variety of edge material from all the major suppliers. One of their specialties is a process that finishes just enough real wood tape to complete an order. But that is one piece of information Pacific Crest is not willing to share. s&p

www.surfaceandpanel.com

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expansion  

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By implementing a successful growth strategy Munksjö unfolds the full potential of a world leading decor paper manufacturer: with premium service, a full product range and an R & D Center that is focused on customer needs. High-level service. High-level product range. Made by Munksjö. I N T E R Z U M   2 0 1 1 ,   M AY   2 5  –  2 8 ,   2 0 1 1 ,   C O L O G N E ,   H A L L   6 ,   B O O T H   B 2 0 / C 2 1

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haptic — adj relating to or based on the sense of touch

Hip Haptics

Surface Technology: B Y

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LEFT TO RIGHT: PRC SCULPTURED WOOD IN TWO DIFFERENT COLOR WAYS / PRC VEGAS BACKGROUND: KML DIAMOND PLATE

o carve out market share engineered decorative surfaces have literally had to infiltrate the hearts and minds of specifiers and convince them that engineered materials are not “even better than the real thing,” they are legitimate in their own right. It’s been an uphill battle fought on many fronts: price, performance, aesthetics, environmental impact and availability. In the ongoing struggle for specification engineered materials have one distinct advantage, versatility. Applying texture to a design changes both the look and the feel of a surface, creating a multi-sensory experience. Designs used to be specified in terms of color and composition, but now more than ever before there is a textural component. In fact, the feel of a surface, matte, gloss, distressed, pebble and so on, is sometimes more important than the design itself. It is both tactile and visual. The topography of a surface has a profound effect on its lightplay. Texture also takes advantage of the user’s sense of touch, and for designers who seek to create an experience, that is huge. Imagine the feel of velvet. Even with eyes closed the sensation remains. With the world driving toward shorter trend cycles, the ability to diversify design is crucial, and savvy decorative surface producers understand that a variety of textures can exponentially expand their stock design offering. In fact, fashion moving toward texture presents the decorative laminate industry with a real opportunity to surpass competition from other materials that are restricted by the parameters of nature. “Consider that décor paper printers can match any color or print any design, and textured plate and paper companies can emboss any texture,” says Gary McGillivray of KML Corporation. “We can give our clients exactly the look and feel they wish for.”

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SAPPI / WARREN RELEASE PAPERS

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LEFT TO RIGHT: PRC CROSSFIRE IN TWO DIFFERENT COLOR WAYS / KML TWEED / KML CANVAS

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SAPPI / WARREN RELEASE PAPERS

NORTH AMERICAN TEXTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Brian Jones, North American representative for SESA, has been involved with texture since the late 1980s, first with release papers and now with press plates. According to Jones, it is worth discussing the use of texture in reference to specific market segments. Within laminate flooring, design introductions frequently employ a registration of textures such as ticking and cathedrals to match woodgrain graphics, with the goal of creating realism. Fidelity is also the goal in the HPL segment, where textures are added to premium product lines to enhance stone and tile designs commonly specified for counter tops. However HPL is also frequently used in retail and hospitality, where novelty and abstract graphics are more acceptable. In those applications, the interplay of texture and light can create dramatic effect. “In the past two decades HPL producers have adopted the use of texture to maintain market share and increase profits, albeit slightly,” says Jones. “It is a competitive segment. Probably 30-35 percent of HPL volume uses distinct textures.” Translucent decorative panels require overlays for certain performance characteristics (see Clearly Captivating page 26), making the surface of the panel a natural environment for texture. This addition does more than provide a tactile experience. When backlit, textured translucent panels take on an entirely new visual element. The newest frontier of texture is the TFM segment that serves the furniture and cabinet industries. According to Todd Wegman, President of Stevens Industries, adding texture has made TFM competitive in a whole new arena. “Designers are looking for realism, but also for something that is unique. With texture, the untrained eye can’t tell the difference between a laminate and a natural material,” says Wegman. “Lots of our middle to high-end customers are using textured laminate instead of real wood and not apologizing for it. The product is visually appealing, but also has depth. The more senses you can appeal to, the more successful the material is in the design world.”

“Designers are looking for realism, but also for something that is unique. With texture, the untrained eye can’t tell the difference between a laminate and a natural material.” TODD WEGMAN, PRESIDENT OF STEVENS INDUSTRIES

www.renolit.com www.laminatefinder.com info@laminatefinder.com (973) 706-6912

FIND IT

CREATING A FEELING

Recently nearly every producer of decorative surfaces has made some effort toward texture. In North America there are essentially two primary methods used for embossing texture on decorative surfaces, stainless steel press plates and cast release papers. Each technology offers advantages depending on volume and aesthetic detail. In other global markets, where texture is more prevalent, engraved metal belts are also used in continuous press operations. Belts tend to be expensive, easily damaged and difficult to change, which in part explains their absence in the emerging North American texture movement.

Finding the right Laminate the easy way www.laminatefinder.com is the fast and easy solution for finding Laminate matches, properties, endless colors & designs, with all possible textures. RENOLIT laminate finder is the smart way to find the Laminate you need.

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Creating texture, whether for press plates or release papers, begins with the design process, which is often a collaborative effort between the press plate or release paper manufacturer and the customer. Nicholas Yardy, Ph.D.,marketing director for Sappi’s release paper business unit, the global leader in release papers for both coated fabrics and plastic laminates, explains that regardless of the media, texture begins as a two dimensional design that is scanned or digitally rendered and separated into layer files that are engraved on a plate or a roll. “There are many ways to engrave, such as multi-layer etching, diamond stylus and direct laser ablation,” says Yardy. Once engraved, press plates are often chrome plated to protect

creates a single sided textured release paper in roll format. We don’t use heat, pressure, or volatile organic compounds; it is a very efficient sustainable method of imparting texture.” This molding process, unlike traditional paper embossing, prevents relaxation of the release paper’s designed texture with use, resulting in very precise robust designs. Release papers can be used either in roll format with continuous presses or in sheet format for the single/multiple opening high-pressure press laminating operations. The texture on the release paper embosses the surface of the laminated material. At the end of the cycle the release paper separates from the decorative laminate, and depending on certain variables, can often be reused several times.

the design. The entire plate is then used in the laminate pressing

Strategy

process to physically distort the melamine saturated décor paper

Effectively introducing texture into product lines is a big investment for laminators, but careful execution can yield big return. The best approach depends on the size of an operation, the intent of the product and the volume of production. Press plates tend to be a bigger investment than release papers, but they last longer. It is not uncommon for laminators in the development stage of texture to initially experiment with release papers for diversifying texture, and then switch to press plates once a design is established. McGillivray points out that “Set up time and flexibility is also a consideration when using embossed press plates. It does slow down production when different change outs are needed. With that in mind, cost considerations are necessary to go from high production to complex orders.”

that is the surface of the laminated material. Stainless steel press plates are very robust and can be used repeatedly in high-volume production runs. Sappi developed a radical process for creating textured release papers in the 1980s. “A liquid acrylic coating is applied to a paper, constructed specifically for use in release applications, and then brought into intimate contact with an engraved roll” says Yardy. “Instead of mechanically deforming the paper with heat and pressure to impart the texture, Sappi’s process permits the liquid acrylic to flow and fill all the details on the engraved roll, that is followed by solidification via electron beam initiated free radical polymerization. This process

The beauty and texture of linen is here. MATCH YOUR MOOD AND STYLE with The Linen Collection of thermally-fused melamine from KML. Resembling spun linen, the deeply-textured finished panels come in six classic neutral shades. Or, choose from any KML color or effect option to complement your design and create a timeless impression.

Ecru Flaxseed

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The Linen Collection:

Naturally simple. Simply elegant.

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“Designers are hungry for texture. Simply making the A&D community aware of what decorative laminates offer in terms of texture elevates the overall perception of the materials.” Brian Jones, North American representative for SESA

Each method presents aesthetic advantages as well that are better suited to different market segments. Press plates impart deeper, more visceral, heavy textures. Used in high volume for short cycle presses where a single set of plates can be used, the capital investment is fairly low and higher efficiencies can be met than with release papers. On the other hand, it is easier and more cost effective to diversify texture with release papers. The process of acrylic casting also results in a more refined aesthetic features and haptic qualities. Yardy explains, “For release papers at Sappi, we are aggressively moving toward direct laser engraving technologies and we have shown texture replication capabilities of features sizes below the wavelength of light. We can control not only the macro and the micro, but also the nano-texture, allowing us to work on hologram and diffraction patterns.” A successful investment in texture is as much about education and marketing as it is about technology. “Designers are hungry for

texture. Simply making the A&D community aware of what decorative laminates offer in terms of texture elevates the overall perception of the materials,” says Jones. “SESA supports these efforts at shows such as NEOCON and IIDEX.” Another effective method for conveying the value of texture to designers is tangible sample chips. “Designers are excited about seeing our samples for the first time in a long time,” says Wegman. Stevens’ approach of presenting a wide variety of textures on different samples of the same décor design clearly illustrates how texture changes the overall visual effect. “We thought there would be a clear connection between a certain design and a certain texture, but it is all over,” says Wegman. “Texture is a whole new dimension for customizing the aesthetic and that is thrilling to the end user.” The other definitive advantage of texture is that it creates an opening for decorative laminates, particularly TFM, to compete with higher price point materials, and that is crucial to successful marketing. Customers that generally buy commodity product are less likely to upgrade, even though added texture in decorative laminates results in a marginal price increase. The real market opportunity is from the top down, reaching customers who are used to paying for premium materials. For them, textured decorative laminates offer superb aesthetic quality at a price that is significantly less than they are already paying. As texture becomes increasingly important to the specification world, decorative surfaces producers have the opportunity to assert the advantages of fully customizable materials. s&p

Matte and satin textures, like this one from KML, are in high demand. 22

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Join the Fastest Growing Movement in Furniture Design.

Feel the amazing texture.

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America’s Energy Needs and a

Balanced Proposal for Using Wood Fiber

W

hen a US federal subsidy program threatened to consume the entire market for composite wood panel furnish in November 2009, the survival instinct of all affected industries was triggered in a way never witnessed before. The early results were a win for domestic manufacturers of panel products, wood-based decorative surfacing materials, and the finished goods made with them. But the other contenders are still marshalling their forces for a new phase of the war. Beginning in late 2009, considerable industry resources were expended to first, turn off a $500-plus million federally-funded spigot and then to insist that the federal government rethink its rules to ensure that “higher value” use of residual wood materials is not put in jeopardy by a controversial though well-intended energy policy. Though the unintended consequence of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) was ultimately blunted, we should take a moment to better understand what BCAP actually was – a wake-up call. BCAP took a distant, seemingly innocuous concern and made an impact that was as acute as it was immediate. Realistically, subsidizing $1 for $1 for up to $45 per dry ton of wood in a matching payment program was no more than the federal government tipping its hand to future renewable energy development in this country. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US consumed more than 94 quadrillion BtU of energy in 2009. To put

24

that into perspective, that’s enough power for every individual on earth (more than 6 billion) to each brew 42 pots of coffee per day for an entire year. Of that 94 quadrillion BtU, only 8% was supplied by what are defined as renewable resources (wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass). Few can reasonably question the need to develop alternative sources of energy. Soaring prices for petroleum and a dependence on foreign entities make compelling cost and national security arguments, respectively. Recent tragedies in Pennsylvania and Chilean coal mines, Gulf of Mexico oil rigs and Japanese nuclear reactors beckon for safer, more environmentally friendly energy. With needs so apparent, one might ask why renewable resources constitute only a small fraction of the current US energy portfolio. Most renewable energy resources are dependent on naturally occurring (not necessarily recurring) phenomenon for successfully harnessing energy. Wind, as an example, is a reliable energy source as long as you are located along a coastline or in Plains states where windy days are abundant. Solar power is reliable in the southwestern US, but less so in the Pacific Northwest where cloudy days are the norm. But beyond issues of geography and geology, renewable technologies are only now emerging and require substantial capital investments. Support by the federal government in the form of subsidies, tax credits and incentives are required to promote the development of renewable energy markets.

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Biomass development is no different in this regard. What began as ethanol subsidies for the development of corn as fuel has morphed into developing new and existing croplands and resources for the purposes of energy development. As small family farms consolidate into agribusiness, greater focus is placed on increasing the “value yield” from land beyond the production of food. Still stinging from the public rebuke of using “food for fuel,” agricultural interests began pushing for the development of non-traditional crops and use of agricultural wastes to maximize value. Thus, BCAP was born. A federal program to support new energy crop development coupled with the ability to economically capture wastes that would otherwise be discarded. Initially, wood was not considered as an eligible biomass crop. But comparatively high heat values for wood, its use as a traditional fuel, a smaller footprint than other biomass crops and a perceived abundance of “wood waste,” allowed woody biomass to make its way into BCAP. Wood waste, for these purposes, is defined by the federal government not only as stumps and slash left on the forest floor after logging, but also as by-products of lumber processing facilities. Reading the tea leaves, and in the midst of a housing crisis and recessionary environment, large private landowners seized the moment. With federal funding for subsidy programs crumbling in the current anti-spending political environment, it might appear that industry has dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, BCAP represented only the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of policies and definitions indicating that BCAP was only the first skirmish in a broader war over fiber. At its essence, the definition of “wood waste” looks awfully similar to materials our industry relies upon as furnish for panels. Though there are 14 different definitions in federal law for what woody biomass is, differentiated mainly by the treatment of public and private lands, all 14 definitions agree that sawdust, chips, shavings and trim are “waste,” with no economic value in the free market.

Most states have renewable portfolio standard, mandates or goals, 2010

Has renewable portfolio standards or state goals

Source: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (accessed January 2010)

Further complicating matters are various state renewable energy mandates that require a certain amount of electricity to be generated from renewable resources. As of 2009, 41 states and the District of Columbia either have or are considering some sort of renewable energy portfolio standard. Though they vary in terms of both targets and how the mandate is calculated, it is clear that renewable resources will need to be expanded beyond the current 8% of the national energy portfolio. Maine, as an example, will require 40% of its energy to come from renewable resources by the year 2017. As a state with little promise for solar, geothermal or hydropower, it’s believed that the virtually all of that energy will need to be generated either by wind or biomass. Also on the horizon is a call by President Obama for a federal clean energy standard. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama called for 80% of the nation’s energy to come from clean energy technologies by the year 2035. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee issued a white paper in March 2011 to solicit feedback on the technologies that would constitute clean energy. This may well include biomass or even co-generated energy where biomass is mixed with coal to meet a clean energy mandate. The need to demonstrate the value of our furnish, our products and our businesses in local communities has only just begun. Though the threats may not be as direct and immediate as BCAP, state and federal policies relying on renewable resources will incentivize the use of wood as a baseline to meet any energy mandate. Unlike other renewable resources as currently defined, wood can be put into box cars and shipped across the country. Our nations wood fiber supply must be expanded to meet these laudable goals while protecting existing markets that utilize these same materials to produce “higher value” consumer goods. We must differentiate between wood to burn and wood to build. We must start now. s&p

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IMAGE COURTESY OF LUMICOR

Clearly Captivating

A

IMAG E COU RTE SY OF C HRYSALI S HD

t any design show there are sure to be groups of professionals gathered around an exhibit, staring longingly at the panels. Their gazes penetrate, looking deep within the material, in fact seeing right through it‌ because it’s translucent. Material enthusiasts are intrigued by architectural resin panels, which can be imbedded with a seemingly endless variety of decorative inclusions (grass, leaves, shells, metal shavings etc.) and still allow light to pass through. Though the technology has been available since 1994, it is only in the last ten years that translucent resin panels have really made their mark in the design world, first in commercial applications and now increasingly in residential projects. Considering that they are both a panel product that can generally be processed on standard equipment, and a decorative surfacing material that is often specified in conjunction with other engineered materials, it is worthwhile to take a look at the fact behind the fashion. Resin panels can be divided into two categories: decorative-quality panels and architecturalquality panels. Decorative panels are used primarily as accent work and can be made from a variety of materials. Architectural panels are similar, but meet stricter requirements for structural integrity, impact resistance and fire ratings. There are two primary resins used to make architectural resin panels, acrylic (PMMA) and copolymer (PETG). This story will focus primarily on where PETG panels come from and how they are brought to market.

TECHNICAL CHEMISTRY ALERT

Poly Ethylene Terephthalate Hexane Diglycol (PETG), is a clear amorphous thermoplastic that can be injection molded or sheet extruded and can be colored during processing. For architectural resin panels, pure PET is modified by adding cyclohexane dimethanol (CHDM) to the polymer backbone in place of ethylene glycol. Since this building block is much larger (six additional carbon atoms) than the ethylene glycol unit it replaces, it does not fit in with the neighboring

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chains the way an ethylene glycol unit would. This interferes with crystallization, which lowers the polymer’s melting temperature and makes the end product clear. PETG tests out at 18 times more impact resistant than unmodified acrylic and three to five times more resilient than modified PMMA. Compared with glass, PETG is 40 times more impact resistant. Like all plastics, PETG begins life as a chemical mixture that is initially extruded and chopped into small pellets for ease of transport and storage. The pellets are then sold to extruding companies that extrude the pellets into many different forms, including sheets. PETG sheets are sold to laminators, who sandwich a decorative layer between two panels and press it under heat and pressure. The process is referred to as Encapsulated Image Layer Technology or EILT, and is proprietary from the formulation of the resin through finished product.

I M AG E CO U RTE SY O F C H RYSA LI S H D

Eastman Chemical Co., of Kingsport, TN manufactures the PETG pellets that eventually become architectural eye candy. They have an exclusive agreement in North America with Spartech Corp., located in St. Louis, to extrude and distribute the clear PETG sheet goods under the brand name Spectar resin. Spectar is Eastman Chemical’s fastest-growing specialty plastic. There are four companies in North America licensed to use the EILT process, 3Form and Veritas (both owned by Hunter Douglas), Lumicor and Chrysalis HD. These companies each carry several product lines, but the PETG architectural resin panels produced by these laminators all share common parentage. In fact, the PETG products are identical. “The difference comes down to design and method of going to market,” says Joanna Jorgensen, CEO of Duraglass, the company that manufactures Chrysalis HD.

IMAGE COURTESY OF 3FORM

THE PLAYERS

Material enthusiasts are intrigued by architectural resin panels, which can be imbedded with a seemingly endless variety of decorative inclusions (grass, leaves, shells, metal shavings etc.) and still allow light to pass through.

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I M AG E S CO U RTE SY O F C H RYSA LI S H D

DESIGN AND MARKET

w w w.materialicious.com

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There is a lot to like about architectural resin panels with embedded inclusions. For one, they are pretty. Architects and designers like them because they are a wonderful material for working with light. Botanical inclusions help to “bring the outside in,” though Jorgensen cautions that there is enough empirical data now available to conclude that botanicals that are not absolutely dried prior to lamination (which is difficult to do) have a tendency to delaminate after about three years. Eric Kurtz, product manager for Lumicor adds that the PETG panels have a great green story. “The standard PETG panels contain 40 percent post industrial recycled material, and specialty panels can have a much higher percentage than that,” says Kurtz. “Resin panels are also 100 percent recyclable.” PETG resin panels are class “A” fire rated, Greenguard certified for indoor air quality and can qualify for several LEED credits. PETG architectural panels typically carry a surface treatment to protect against exposure to UV rays. Left un-protected PETG will yellow over time when exposed to sunlight. Cap overlays can also be specified to increase abrasion and wear resistance and to protect against chemicals, making the panels good specifications for a variety of applications. All PETG panels also make great dry erase boards and are available in different thicknesses, though some producers charge extra for different dimensions and characteristics. Release papers can be added on top of the panel- inclusion- panel sandwich during lamination to add surface texture to the end product. PETG translucent resin panels can be thermoformed and cold bent without damage to the inclusion. Edges are fused with heat, and some finishes are “self-healing” and can be fixed with hand-held heaters or crème brulee torches on site.

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P OT E N T I A L P E TG L E E D C R E D I T S Construction Materials Waste Management (MR 2.1 & MR 2.2 – UP TO 2 POINTS) CREDIT REQUIREMENT

Develop and implement a construction waste management plan.

Recycle or salvage at least 50% (1 point) or 75% (2 points)

The ABET Wood collection of high pressure laminates combines the look and feel of wood veneer with technically enhanced durability. Real richness, real texture, real veneer…

Recycled Content (MR 4.1 & MR 4.2 – UP TO 2 POINTS) CREDIT REQUIREMENT

The sum of post-consumer recycled content plus one half of pre-consumer (post-industrial) recycled content must equal at least 10% (1 point) or 20% (2 points) of the total value of project materials.

Low-Emitting Materials/IAQ Compliant Products (EQ 4.1 – 1 POINT)

NeoCon Booth # 4129 - 8th Floor

CREDIT REQUIREMENT

Products used INSIDE the building seeking certification must not exceed LEED limits from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) content.

Regional materials (MR 5.1 - UP TO 2 POINTS) CREDIT REQUIREMENTS

A minimum of 10% of construction material costs must be extracted or harvested and/or manufactured within 500 miles of the project site.

“Manufactured” is defined as the final assembly of components into the product that is furnished and installed. This does not include on-site assembly, erection, or installation of finished components.

Daylight and Views (EQ 8.1, EQ 8.2, EQ 8.3– UP TO 3 POINTS) CREDIT REQUIREMENTS

Achieve a minimum Daylight Factor of 2% for at least 75% (1 point) or 90% (2 points) of all regularly occupied areas.

Provide daylight redirection and/or glare reduction devices (prerequisite)

Views for 90% Seated spaces (1 point)

Line of site may be drawn through interior glazing IMAG E S COU RTE SY OF C HRYSALI S HD

Low VOC emissions: LEED contributing product

800-228-2238 • www.abetlaminati.com

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Architectural resin panels are not intended for load bearing applications. They are commonly used in commercial projects such as room dividers, ceiling panels and decorative accents. To encourage residential usage, companies have created partner programs with kitchen/ bath and home storage solution companies to offer PETG resin panels as options for backsplashes, cabinet inserts and counter tops. More adventurous end users have specified the panels for flooring and exterior applications, which looks great but voids the warranty. “The biggest difference between the companies who make PETG translucent decorative panels is the way we bring goods to market,” says Jorgensen. 3Form, Veritas and Lumicor primarily focus their efforts to selling directly to architects and designers. Chrysalis HD took a different platform and sells through distribution. The companies that sell direct have beautiful promotional material, offer lots of custom variations and tend to have big advertising budgets. Whereas selling through distribution relies on ease of access to reach the market place, with strategies including a large offering of standard designs, short lead times, and no price differential for options like panel thickness.

IMAGE COURTESY OF LUMICOR

SynDeco

Clearly PETG architectural resin panels have caught the attention of architects and designers worldwide. And a better understanding of what they are, where they come from and how they come to market makes it easier to specify the right panel for the project. s&p

Why Laminate with AACC Hot Melt Adhesive Coatings? You'll Save Money! With AACC hot melt adhesive coatings, your total lamination cost is lower than “wet glue” – or any other glue system.

Check out the AACC advantage: • • • • •

260 degree F Heat Resistance Moisture Resistant Smooth Appearance (no orange peel look) Less Than 1% Waste Environmentally Safe

Plus: • • • •

Free online tracking of your inventory at our plant Free lab testing of laminations made with AACC Hot Melt Free laminator operator training Free quality control seminars in your plant

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12 Osgood St. | Lawrence, MA 01843 P : 978-688-7400 | F : 978-691-5015 AACC@Tiac.net | www.AACC-Hotmelts.com

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SynDECOR®-based overlays: The next great thing in decorative laminates! SynDECOR®, a biaxially-oriented polypropylene (OPP) based film, provides cabinet and RTA furniture producers an exciting, cost-effective alternative to today's laminate substrates. This thin, strong barrier film is UV-stabilized and modified to chemically bond to glues for lamination. SynDECOR is surface printed and e-beam or UV-coated by AET Films converter customers.

No more water or moisture issues Because SynDECOR is an OPP-based film, it has all of the water resistance your applications will ever need. Meeting 24-hour test requirements is no issue, whether the laminates are based upon our 23, 32, 41 or 56 gsm products.

Its “Living Hinge” is ideal for miter-fold construction Unlike most materials, polypropylene actually strengthens when it is flexed. This inherent, high resistance to flexural fatigue, combined with SynDECOR’s high resistance to tear-initiation, allows and inspires product designs that include foldable backs, v-grooved cabinet carcasses, lightweight panels and shelving. Furniture and cabinet producers can now improve product design and appearance while reducing the overall costs.

IF water-resistance, living-hinge and versatility are not

enough to convince you, then also consider these additional SynDECOR benefits: • consistent chemical bonds with today’s commonly used glues • superior print fidelity • converter-applied coatings that deliver exceptional mar, scratch and abrasion resistance • formaldehyde and melamine-free • polyolefin-based construction, widely considered the most sustainable of all plastics

Wrapped profiles and five-piece doors MDF and SynDECOR-based overlays are made for one another. The thin, yet strong SynDECOR-based laminate will highlight the intricate detail of routed products. Five-piece doors can now be produced with one substrate and one print surface, delivering consistent design with improved durability. The functional surface of SynDECOR chemically bonds to the PUR or water-based glues.

The Hidden Advantage™

www.SynDECOR.com For more information on SynDECOR, call 1.800.688.2044.

AET is a proud member of the CPA and we truly believe that SynDECOR - based laminates are an “Innovative Product for a Sustainable Future.”

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AND

INNOVATION Investment stow – verb (used with object):

To place or arrange in a neat, efficient way. To keep for future use. Ex. The innovative home organization company saw the economic downturn as an opportunity to acquire and stow vacated market share.

2010

was a big year for The Stow Company, formerly known as Windquest Companies, Inc. It celebrated its 25th anniversary with a 25 percent increase in revenue, a new brand identity and several product launches. “Our offerings and capabilities have evolved as the needs and expectations of consumers have evolved. We expect our growth and the tremendous change in the category to continue,” said Eric Wolff, President and CEO of the Stow Company. “We are committed to our position as the home organization category leader. As The Stow Company, the name we have taken brings clarity both within our organization and externally. It’s an absolutely exciting time.” Careful organization yields increased efficiency and flexibility. It also requires forethought, effort and investment. The Stow Company’s commitment to organization is evident in both its production and distribution strategies. FORETHOUGHT

Headquartered in Holland, MI, with locations in Georgia and New Jersey, The Stow Company started as a laminator and fabricator selling into the office furniture and retail markets. This is not an uncommon business model in western Michigan. In 1987 Stow made a fundamental shift to specialize in well-designed custom home storage solutions. Since then Stow has become a dedicated student of the industry, both in terms of market trends and the manufacturing technology necessary to fulfill consumer demand. “We are always aware of consumer needs, even in times like these. We make investments in research and development to continue advancing our product line,” says Wolff.

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Within challenge is opportunity. When the North American economy faltered, cutbacks were common. Not so with The Stow Company. “We looked at it as an opportunity to gain market share, not put our heads in the sand and wait for it to pass,” says Randy Tallman, Director, marketing & product management for The Stow Company. “We looked at what we could do to be prepared for the turn around and did things like doubling the number of finishes offered, including textured finishes. We re-launched a whole new garage program, the ORG desk bed, and the Forterra™ line, all since the downturn in the economy.” Though too soon to say for certain, it appears The Stow Company accurately anticipated consumer demand in the recovering economy. So what do the “new” North American consumers want? Trend information across several market segments indicates that after a few rough years financially, consumers are cautious, but willing to spend money on things with high-perceived value. Philosophically they want more efficiency, more stability and to feel a sense of personal empowerment. Instead of upgrading, many people are renovating. Living spaces are becoming smaller and more open. The concept of “sustainability” is an underlying current in buying decisions, often providing consumers with the necessary emotional permission to go ahead and make a purchase. In the wake of austerity there is also an emerging interest in self-reliance and DIY projects, and with it, workspaces that can accommodate tools and supplies. In a purely aesthetic sense, there is no typical North American sensibility, though texture is becoming increasingly important. Transitional and modern designs with clean lines are well suited to mixed-use open spaces. Above everything else, the conscientious consumer expects quality.

In a purely aesthetic sense, there is no typical North American sensibility, though texture is becoming increasingly important. Transitional and modern designs with clean lines are well suited to mixed-use open spaces. Above everything else, the conscientious consumer expects quality.

including exclusive press-plate embossed textures that enhance the sensory experience of their products. But every panel processer has access to these materials and technologies. “One of the trends we have been watching is the demand for thicker aesthetics that create a high-quality look,” says Tallman. To elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary Stow made a bold move to adopt lightweight panel processing technology. This allows them to offer substantial, furniture quality panels that have an impressive strength to weight ratio. Stow shares this distinction in North America with a scant number of other operations, namely the Swedish furniture giant IKEA.

“When it comes to panel processing, we had to make a rather large equipment investment in order to bring our concepts to market,” says Tallman, “you can’t process the honey-comb core material on standard equipment.” Part of that investment was developing and marketing the new lightweight panel product line, called Forterra™, that can be used independently or as an integrated part of Stow’s product lines. Unlike the “hollow core” doors of the past, Forterra panels are a premium product. The line provides designers the ability to create pieces that span distances up to 60" without vertical interruptions. Two- inch thick panels create an elegant and substantial aesthetic, without the weight of a solid panel. Stow applies

Investment

Gaining market share requires staying ahead of the competition. To do this Stow takes advantage of the latest decorative surfacing and composite panel technology. The majority of their products are constructed from TFM made with particleboard (available in NAF), though they also use veneer and 3D laminates over MDF for contoured faces. Stow’s expanded finish offering comprises the best designs the industry has to offer,

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a 2mm edgebanding that gives pieces built with Forterra great wear-resistance and long life cycles, both of which are important characteristics to consumers. “Home storage used to mean closet systems behind closed doors. That is no longer the case,” says Bill Lown, Vice President, corporate sales for Stow. “Now organization systems are more like furniture. Pieces must be really well made, quality is important. Storage systems have to withstand daily use in the open living environment. What makes our products different from commercially available residential furniture is that they can be personalized to each customer’s style and needs.” The Stow Company also invested in a new website that brings all of its products and sales channels together in one place, showing the company’s complete offerings. The easy-to-navigate site provides links to search for local dealers and retailers, as well as the ability to design and buy closet and home storage solutions online. Effort

It is apropos that The Stow Company’s success is, in large part, due to careful planning and organization. The consumer-oriented retailer of residential storage solutions has a unique distribution model that reaches across all channels, making it easy for most people to access their products. “Our strength is being able to service this industry no matter how a customer wants to be serviced; in store, online or a professional will go to the clients’ home and do it for them. Whatever you want, we can do it,” says Tallman “We are the only company that really does all three of those avenues well.” Stow’s products are available through three national brands, which is unique in the market. The high-service ORG brand offers turnkey professional design and installation of customized organization solutions through its authorized dealer network. EasyClosets.com’s interactive web solution offers custom closet and home storage systems that are cut to fit and easy to install. Closet professionals also

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have access to this line through ProClosets. And the Easy Track retail brand delivers easyto-assemble DIY closet organization kits sold through select retail stores and home centers throughout the country. Orders placed through the ORG dealer channel are created using a proprietary design tool that is integrated with Stow’s production software. With minor exceptions, everything is made to order in just in time production. Customers using the web-based design system for Pro-Closets and Easy Closets have their orders turned around in 24 hours. The higher-service ORG line has a 72-hour turn around time. All Stow brands are processed in the USA. “We grew significantly last year and expect to grow this year,” says Lown. “That did not happen by accident. When the downturn hit we said ‘what can we do to gain market share and grow in this economy?’ Instead of figuring out how to cut costs and survive, we made the effort to be innovative in this industry and aggressive in the market.” s&p

t r a d i t i o n

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Since 1973,  Funder America (FAI)  has drawn from its centuryold  Austrian heritage to bring vertically integrated innovation, technology and flexibility to  customers throughout the U.S.  Three strategically located TFM panel and component-manufacturing facilities include the Mocksville, N.C., headquarters, which houses Funder’s  exclusive saturation business, large-volume panel lamination and full component capabilities. It’s also home to a recently added state-of-the-art powder-coating facility; MDF powder coating  is a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly technology that offers design flexibility, seamless edges and an unlimited range of shapes. Whatever your decorative surface needs, Funder has an innovative cost-effective  solution. Funder’s own Navigator Collection of 10 on-trend woodgrain designs brings excellent realism and rich character to panel-based furniture, fixtures and casework.

F u n d e r A m e r i c a at a G l a n c e

n Largest component fabricator in North America. n Vertically integrated company with a packaging division for labeling and assembly n Surface Synergies partner to provide exact matches for various laminates (TFM, HPL, thermofoil, edgebanding) 336.751.3501 |

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and

Innovation Investment from stow

Forterra™ Perhaps the most exciting introduction rolled out by The Stow Company is Forterra™ lightweight panels for furniture-quality home organization solutions. Forterra allows horizontal surfaces to span up to 60" long, and up to 2" thick – dimensions never available with composite panel offerings. The engineered panels’ honeycomb-cell core is crafted with recycled content with top and bottom skins made from thick TFM. Forterra panels provide more substance with less material, and without sacrificing strength. The reduced weight of the panel allows for easier installation and transport. The panels also contribute to improved air quality, meeting California’s stringent CARB Phase II low emission standards. Forterra can be used exclusively or integrated with The Stow Company's comprehensive produce line. “From a consumer’s point of view, here’s a new technology that allows for a very clean, artistic, custom-furniture look in comparison to more typical organization systems. Because you can span 60” all sorts of design options are possible with longer, beautiful lines. Thicker panels deliver a custom feel with strength and substance,” said Christine Brun, ASID principal designer at Christine Brun & Associates, author and syndicated columnist. n

Desk Bed This ain’t your grandma’s Murphy bed. Within a floor space of just 82” by 44” for the twin size bed, the ORG desk bed meets two key needs efficiently. High-tech hardware drives the functionality of the desk bed, allowing it to convert from bed to desk without adding or moving furniture. Its unique balancing mechanism provides a smooth, uninterrupted transition, so the bed stays made and the work surface remains undisturbed. “This design addresses the growing desire for versatile solutions in multi-purpose rooms and smaller size areas,” said Randy Tallman, Director, marketing & product management for The Stow Company. “A lack of square footage doesn’t mean a home has to have limited space efficiency. This new desk bed technology opens up a world of new possibilities for shared uses in a spare room, child’s bedroom, guest room or even a college dorm,” said Tallman. The design is offered in a wide range of styles and finishes providing deep color and beautifully-detailed wood grain texture. With solid construction, precise engineering, and uncompromising materials, the desk bed continues ORG’s tradition of manufacturing highquality solutions for the organizational and aesthetic needs of today’s homeowners. n

Garage Solutions As square footage in homes shrinks, the lines between what was once considered out-of-sight storage and living space becomes blurred. Renovating under-utilized garages, mudrooms and basements are great opportunities for homeowners to optimize available square footage. The Stow Company recently re-launched a line of ORG garage solutions that adds style and convenience to the traditional man cave. The cabinets are wall-mounted to maximize space while keeping belongings up off damp floors. This also makes it very easy to clean underneath the system. Advances in décor paper printing technology are evident in Stow’s expansive offering of TFM finishes, and secondary living spaces provide a perfect opportunity for homeowners to play around with less-traditional looks. Metallic finishes are a natural fit in garages, while subtle striations and textures add class to mudrooms and basements. n 36

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IT’S BEEN A wild RIDE WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? B

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PRESIDENT, MILLWORK AND MORE | PAST PRESIDENT, CABINET MAKERS ASSOCIATION

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know there are some unique situations in various parts of the country and within the industry, but if you are reading this now, chances are you have just completed a year with more hours than ever put in on projects that averaged less per sale and took many more meetings than usual to close and process. Now, here is the good news. We made it this far! You hopefully have stepped it up a notch when it came to your advertising and marketing. Now you have to ask yourself; why wasn’t I doing this before? Why is it we wait until things are tough to do things that make it easier? Whether you ran more ads, sent more mailers, did more follow ups and stepped up the networking, these are all things we need to do ALL the time. This is even more needed when business is slamming and you can’t keep up with production. It might sound odd, but think about it. Is it that your efforts were that good? Or is it the fact that the competition scaled back? It was actually a combination of both. When times are good there are more shops out there to do the work. You might have thought you had a lot going on, but, truth be told, when the economy is good,

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you have a smaller market share. It is deceiving. Imagine the possibilities for gross sales if you were to continue your current efforts on the same scale as things turn around. When it comes to sales, I think it is safe to say we all got better this year. Do you know why? We had no choice! In the past, we were more order takers than sales people. I know I was and didn’t even know it. Ignorance made me believe I was good at sales. Reality showed me I was horrible. Just like marketing yourself in good times, the need for constant improvement in sales is the same. It is the same for the same reasons I stated above. Because when times are good, prospects are going to have more choices. I brought my F game up to a D game and hope I don’t get sloppy as things turn around and stop educating myself on how to get better. Is an A+ game attainable? There is no such thing as an A+! We must never forget that there is no such thing as perfection…just constant improvement. This is the rule for everything in life and most important when it comes to your own ability to run, sell for and market your company.

For subtle background patterns

CMYK 100% 92% It is amazing how fat and lazy we got 85%

through the years when it came to spending money on the business. We spent money on things we thought we needed when in fact, as you go through your cost containment strategies; you realize the return on investment is just not there on so many things. That’s not to say there are things we cut that won’t be re-implemented as we get busier. The snowball effects of wasted funding add up to a significant sum. Although my company spent proportionately more money on marketing and sales than I ever could have imagined in the past 2 years, in other areas I was able to cut almost $20,000 a year in waste out of the company. The saddening part is adding that amount up over the past 13 years I have been in business. Money that came out of my pocket, or should I say, never made it there in the first place. Never forget the lessons learned when it comes to cost containment. These lessons will add to your bottom line every single year and, depending on your size plus how many years you plan on running your company, it can and will have a major effect on how you live the rest of your life.

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Purekitchen-Brooklyn, NY

A:

Image: James Lear

Q:

Which awardwinning leader in innovative green panel products can help you specify with success? Columbia Forest Products, makers of domestic hardwood plywood with

Nico Spacecraft-BC, Canada , A team of LEED APs ready

And what about fabrication? Columbia partners with over 850 PureBond Fabricator Network™ members across the US and Canada who understand the importance of indoor air quality, healthier interiors and sustainable design.

to help you with specifications. , A full range of Americanmade, premium quality hardwood panel products. ,Featuring no added urea formaldehyde construction to contribute to LEED ® credits.

For product information, samples, LEED support, distributor or fabricator locations, contact info@cfpwood.com 800.637.1609 www.cfpwood.com Kerf Design-Seattle, WA © Columbia Forest Products. All rights reserved.

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Now that we made it this far what is next? When and how fast will things turn around? Don’t let an economic environment that is completely out of your control dictate these answers for you. The truth of the matter is controlling how much work you have, how much money you spend and how much money you make has always been in your control. You just didn’t know it. We thought there was more work out there than could ever be done. We were selling ice cubes to Eskimos and we all thought the ride would never end. If we had done marketing, got better at sales and were better at cost containment to begin with, this economy would not have had as hard an impact and we would have recouped much faster. You have made it this far, farther than many others. Your opportunity to gain market share has never been greater. It’s a simple fact that many of our brethren have closed and will never re-open. That coupled with the fact that there was before and even more so now, fewer and fewer people getting into this business. This has set the stage for you to make your company whatever you want it to be. It is my absolute pleasure to ride this roller coaster with you, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the Cabinet Makers Association and the people who selflessly helped in one way or another to get us all this far. If we continue our efforts now and forever by utilizing the continually expanding resources of the CMA and its members by sharing our hard learned lessons with one another, our ability for growth and profitability is only limited by our individual motivation and willingness to be there for each other. s&p

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sean Benetin is a veteran woodworker, operating his custom cabinetry and millwork business serving the ultra high end market in Northern New Jersey. He’s the immediate past president of the Cabinet Makers Association, a member of its Speakers Bureau and has presented seminars and workshops on woodworking management topics at industry gatherings across North America. ABOUT THE CABINET MAKERS ASSOCIATION

The CMA was founded in 1998 as a non-profit trade association. Membership includes primarily small to mid-sized cabinet shops and custom woodworking businesses, their suppliers and woodworking educators across North America. General membership in the CMA is open to any cabinet or woodworking business or professional. Associate membership is limited to firms that supply materials, tools, machinery, services or supplies to general members. CMA’s educational speaker’s bureau provides expert, entertaining speakers on a wide variety of topics facing the cabinet and woodworking industries, and delivers more educational seminars to more woodworking professionals across the U.S. than any other organization. The CMA’s mission is “to uphold the highest level of professionalism in the industry by providing its members with networking opportunities, continuing education and ongoing professional development.” In meeting the letter and spirit of that mission statement, the CMA will be offering a professional certification program for its members. Details of that program will be announced at AWFS in Las Vegas this July. Stop by our booth #1563 to learn more about us and our programs. For more information. please visit www.cabinetmakers.org

“The truth of the matter is controlling how much work you have, how much money you spend and how much money you make has always been in your control. You just didn’t know it.”

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2011

HaRdware round-Up The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show was held this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center April 26-28th. Each year KBIS spotlights the latest innovations in kitchen and bath products. Here is a look at the trends in functional hardware that are driving design.

Blum This year at KBIS Blum presented research from their AGE EXPLORER suit, a suit designed to simulate various physical limitations that can come with aging, injury or disease. “It helps us design products that make kitchen work easier on the body, and easier for people with all types of limitations,” says Dennis Poteat, Marketing and Communications Manager for Blum, Inc. In addition to the age explorer, Blum introduced two new innovations in functional hardware. The waste/recycle sets are the new premium drawer solutions for 15", 18" and 21" base cabinets. They feature Blumotion softclosing and are available with Servo-Drive touch to open feature. Blum also launched its new Compact Blumotion series of concealed face framed hinges with built in soft close. They are available for both full and partial overlay applications and compliment the companies existing face frame hinge program. These premium face frame hinges have the Blumotion soft

quality of motion. Compact Blumotion hinges will be available in Blum’s standard boring pattern and available in cup depths as little as 11mm to accommodate profile doors. In addition, Blum will also offer an angle restriction clip for these hinges to restrict the opening angle to 86°. n

close mechanism integrated in the small space of the hinge cup and offer the quality of motion you have come to expect from Blum hardware. The Blumotion function can easily be deactivated on one of the hinges, enabling a small or light door to close with the same

Federal Brace Federal Brace provides the largest selection of designer style support brackets specifically crafted for the high capacity support of granite and other solid surface countertops. Federal Brace has become a standard for innovative solution in the market. The Eva Reinforced Countertop Corbel is a solution that provides the wood corbel look with the reinforcement of a metal bracket. With an inset steel L Bracket giving the corbel extra strength, the Eva decorative corbel provides a wood-like appearance when painted and the aesthetic feeling of a corbel. The MDF material used to make the Eva Reinforced Corbel is environmentally friendly and more economical than a standard wood corbel.  With the Eva Corbel there is more strength, less cost and a greener result than using the traditional decorative wood corbel. n

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2011

HARDWARE ROUND-UP Grass

presented a hinge, a lift and a slide system at KBIS. The TEC Soft-close is based on the ever popular 3-dimensional TEC face frame hinge. The Soft-close damper is pre-mounted in the hinge cup so no additional installation of the Soft-close is required. The TEC Soft-close is sleek in design with a nickel finish and zinc die cast cover cap. It has a cup drilling depth of 10mm and no protruding parts from the hinge cup. Quiet and effortless closing action is guaranteed every time regardless of the door size and weight. The closing force automatically adjusts to the size. The Kinvaro L-80 Parallel Lifter system offers a smooth quiet action as the lifter opens a single door in parallel to the cabinet. The lifter allows quick and easy access to cabinet interiors as the door is pulled up and out of the cabinet way. In one smooth motion, doors, regardless of the weight, lift up and hold firm in any position. Easy, toolfree adjustments make the L-80 lifter the perfect hardware for large wall cabinets with their vast amount of storage space. Dynapro, the new undermount slide system from Grass, not only offers perfect movement but absolute design freedom when it comes to cabinetry concepts. The Dynapro offers a high load carrying capacity, 3 dimensional adjustment option for perfect alignment and a synchronized movement that allows the drawers to operate without a sound. Available for 5/8" and 3/4" drawer material, longer lengths and heavy-duty carrying capacity. ■

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Häfele

introduced two exciting concepts at KBIS 2011. The LOOX LED lighting system integrates LED, or light-emitting diodes, using a universal, worldwide power system where switches, lights and drivers are “plug and play.” The unique identification system for the operating system (12v, 24v or 350 mA) allows the user to go by color coded symbols, rather than a specific plug. For instance with the 24v system, users can simply look for the green labels and all green labeled products work together. Not only does this easy-to-follow system bring design flexibility, but its affordable, UL listed, allows 50,000 hours of lamp life, lower power consumption and no electrician is required. Häfele America Co. is proud to announce hardware for the Hiddenbed. This patented mechanism is a space saver which allows a room to have a dual purpose – a study/office and a bedroom. The quality hardware is easy to operate and can be used in a child’s room and then that room can become a study and guest room after the child leaves the nest. This product lets you do more without adding more square footage. “The function this product offers makes it an ideal fit for people needing to utilize the space they currently have,” says Product Marketing Manager, John Runyan. ■

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PEACE restored by Salice

MAKE A LOT OF NOISE

Introducing Futura from Salice, the concealed runner suitable for all drawer applications, available in partial and full extension openings.

BY KEEPING QUIET.

Futura is available in 3 versions: • Smove decelerated closing • Integrated Push opening for cabinets without pulls • Traditional Self-closing As a leading innovator in concealed hinge technology, Salice brings the same superior quality and respected customer support to the Futura line. Easily installed and dependable, customers receive advanced technology, innovative design and solid construction. Specifications: • Exceeds ANSI TESTING 156.9 load capacity • Safety feature to prevent drawers from turning over during transport • Drawer height adjustment (+3 mm) • Finish – bright zinc plated • Lifetime warranty

For detailed specs, availability and pricing, contact us by phone or visit www.saliceamerica.com. Salice is the proud recipient of the Business Marketing Association “2009 Best of North Carolina” award for excellence in B2B strategy and creativity.

2123 Crown Centre Drive | Charlotte NC. 28227 | 800.222.9652 | 704.841.7810 | www.saliceamerica.com

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2011

HARDWARE ROUND-UP Rev-A-Shelf Organize deep drawers with Rev-A-Shelf’s Vinyl Peg Board. The board has a sound dampening vinyl covering that is easy to maintain and works with either wood pegs or new chrome accessories (purchased separately). Available in three standard sizes (4DPBG2421 fits 27" and smaller cabinets, 4DPBG3021 fits 30" and 33" cabinets, and the 4DPBG-3921 fits 36", 39", and 42" cabinets) each size can be trimmed to fit and features the easy drop-in installation that can take a drawer from drab and messy to chic and orderly within seconds. ■

Hettich's

Kitchen Concept 2015 focuses on design, convenience, ergonomics, electrification and multimedia networking. Kitchen Concept 2015 interprets the kitchen as the hub of the home. It is integrated in the home environment rather than claiming to be the centre of attention. It is the essentials that count, with the technology – appliances, sinks and taps – disappearing behind fascias when they’re not needed. Hardware ideas for flush-fitting fronts generate new architectural options: On demand, they are electrically retracted and, in doing so, free up the work surface. An extremely shallow sink discreetly blends into the forward-pointing kitchen landscape and reduces the consumption of water. Retracting faucets underpin the trend of reducing kitchen design to what’s needed without compromising on function.

Drawers, pot-and-pan drawers and even the dishwasher can be opened from both sides providing access to contents no matter which side of the work centre the user is standing. Height adjustable wall units with control panels on the base unit provide the capability of raising and lowering cabinet elements independently of each other, ergonomically moving cabinet contents to a level that best suits the user. In the future, multimedia networking will do much to boost convenience because in the Kitchen Concept 2015, different electrical appliances communicate with each other. The touch screen in the hob or large screen in the kitchen front can be used, for example, to display oven temperature and remaining cooking time. On top of this, Internet, television as well as other building services are operated and controlled from a central point. ■

Salice Bortoluzzi S.p.A., a part of the Salice group, designs and manufactures technological solutions for sliding doors on furniture and kitchen cabinets. Although the main focus is on coplanar sliding movements, Bortoluzzi offers a complete solution of sliding systems, vertical and horizontal, all compatible with multiple doors solutions. The systems are designed around customer specifications and are customized according to the number of doors and the weight. From ultra-light doors to doors as heavy as 150lbs each, the system offers a completely silent sliding mechanism with decelerated opening and closing devices, designed to fully support the door weight and render the motion seamless and effortless. The notion of coplanar doors, doors on the same plane that slide on one another, has been taken to the next level by adding an electric motor on some of the units and, if requested, a remote control for a state-of-the-art functionality. The weight support and the sliding systems can be mounted either on top or underneath the cabinet, offering a versatile solution for any construction need. s&p

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tafisa.ca NEW IMPROVED WEBSITE

HARMONY WITH NATURE Tafisa panels. A natural selection. LEED

CARB

WORLD CLASS TFM PANELS

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Lightweight Panel Primer B Y

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ightweight panels are not new. Honeycomb-cell core construction, adapted from one of nature’s successful designs, has long been rendered in aluminum and plastic for the marine and aerospace industries. In the North American market paper-based honeycomb panels are often associated with the value segment of interior doors, but the concept offers real advantages that go beyond price. Technological advances in surfacing materials and edge treatments have resulted in impressive gains in performance and design possibilities for lightweight panels, making the honeycomb cell construction a viable option for many furniture and millwork applications. This is particularly relevant in market segments where product distribution is a key factor in profitability. A structural panel that can achieve a thick aesthetic with an extraordinary strength to weight ratio can significantly reduce material and shipping costs. Lightweight panels are already prevalent in European manufacturing, where they are lauded for their performance (they are as strong as solid wood but weigh about 70 percent less) and environmentally benign characteristics. Considering that the entire panel uses less material than its solid counterpart, and that the core is made from recycled fiber, it is no wonder that lightweight panels are popular with those that are concerned with carbon footprints and material life cycles. Yet with a handful of innovative exceptions, lightweight panel usage is conspicuously absent in the North American market. The few that do incorporate the material seem to be doing pretty well in a rocky economic environment. Is the composite lightweight panel an idea whose time has come? Without a crystal ball it is impossible to say for sure, but the technology exists. In other parts of the world both the market demand and available supply exist. And quite likely many North American panel processors are pretty darn close to being equipped to at least add value to lightweight panels. This brief overview will look at the most common types of woodbased lightweight panels, general manufacturing and processing equipment, and some considerations for the North American market. MAKING LIGHTWEIGHT PANEL

Lightweight panel is a sandwich assembly consisting of an expanded paper honeycomb core of lightweight material and two thin top and bottom layers glued to the core. The top and bottom can be made from many materials including particleboard, plywood, HDF, MDF or laminate.

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image courtesy of egger

Originally lightweight panels were built with a glued-in wooden frame on all sides that kept the panel’s components together. Not only did this require considerable pre-production and staging efforts, it also resulted in a panel that was only suitable for fixed dimensions. At this point mass production and variable finished sizes were not available. In 2003 equipment specifically designed for manufacturing frame-on-board was introduced. The German company Torwegge Holzbearbeitungsmaschinen Gmb developed a fully automated production line for lightweight panel production. The line separated face layers, produced frames, inserted the core, glued, pressed and packaged. A specialized machine made in the Netherlands by Honicel was developed to expand and dry the honeycomb core material, a process that significantly adds to the material’s stiffness and strength. With these advances toward automation in place lightweight panels quickly grew more viable.

Frameless

Bruno Hülsbusch, director of sales for the Austria-based board and laminate manufacturer EGGER, shared some basic insights about the current state of lightweight panel manufacturing and processing. Today EGGER produces both frameless and framed lightweight panels. Hybrid panels, with frames on two sides are also possible. “Frameless lightweight panels are available with different thicknesses of top and bottom layers, but they are typically thicker material (8mm),” says Hülsbusch. “They are called a “universal” product because they can be processed on standard woodworking machinery and nearly all furniture construction can be done with standard hardware/ fittings.” Frameless lightweight panels can be machined to size and even contoured. Level_PhaseII_quarter:Layout 1

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i m a g e c o u r t e s y o f IMA

Building on these developments, another German company, Siempelkamp Handling Systeme GmbH developed a continuous production process for manufacturing frameless lightweight panels, which both reduced the weight of the panel and produced panels that could be cut to size. In 2006, Fritz Egger GmbH & Co OG. introduced a new production line for manufacturing large frameless lightweight panels, which are now sold internationally in more than 40 countries under the trade name Eurolight®. Today the number of companies manufacturing or processing lightweight panels is steadily increasing.

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IMAGE COURTESY OF EGGER

Edge treatment for frameless lightweight panels adds stability to the panel and protects the core from atmospheric elements that could potentially compromise the stiffness of the honeycomb structure. There are two widely used methods of edge treatment, direct application and edge stabilization. Thicker top and bottom layers (8mm) can be directly edgebanded with a 2mm thick edgebanding up to 50mm total board thickness. Though this adds to the overall weight of the panel, the thickness also makes it possible to use standard hardware and fittings. To reduce the weight of a panel, thinner top and bottom layers (between 3mm and 5mm depending on the material) can be used in conjunction with the edge stabilization method of edge treatment. Ima developed a patented process for this method that utilizes the BIMA P480V CNC processing center. According to Peter Tuenker, managing director for IMA America Corporation, “After a frameless lightweight panel has been sized a special knife head

Riken USA Corporation

removes some of the honeycomb core (2mm to 3mm) and cuts a shallow groove into the top and bottom layer,” says Teunker. “The throughfeed has an extra glue applicator that applies a PUR glue to the top and bottom grooves. Following that a support edge of ABS material is inserted into the groove. Next, the edge is milled down and a regular edgebanding is applied on top of the support edge.” Homag has also developed a similar process for inserting a stabilizing edge with specialized equipment add-ons. Though a frameless lightweight panel with edge stabilization is lighter, the thinner and bottom layNAUF top - Particleboard ers will not support standard hardware and thus require specialized lightweight panel hardware and fittings.

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FRAMED

Hülsbusch explains the lightweight panels with frames offered by EGGER are the result of a very modern, fully automated process called post-framing that allows panels to be first cut to size and then framed. The post frame method is used in circumstances where frameless lightweight panels with top and bottom layers of 3 or 4mm require standard Sans urée formaldéhyde hardware. The process is similar to inserting a support edge, except that crosswise frame components (typically made from particleboard, MDF or OSB) are inserted into the cut-out groove in the honeycomb core. Frames are available in standard depths of 10, 38 and 65mm, depending of the requirements of the application. The process can be finished with all kinds of decorative edgebanding from 0.3mm paper to 3mm security edgebands. “This product type is a particularly good NAUF - Melamine fit for flat pack and RTA furniture products that have to be transported long distances. They are designed to be the lightest of the lightweight panels, available with 3mm or 4mm top and bottom layers. It is advantageous both in shipping costs and ease of handling,” says Hülsbusch.

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IMAGE COURTESY OF EGGER

THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET

St unning High Gloss

European designers are taking advantage of lightweight panel to create bold, clean, easy to handle furniture, but with the exception of a few innovative companies, there is very little happening in the North America. “The biggest reason we’re not seeing a lot of lightweight panel processing in North America is that there is a limited supply of full size sheets available,” says Tuenker. Indeed the companies that actually make lightweight panels in North America do so to meet inhouse usage and don’t generally sell into the marketplace. Companies that process, import. The lack of availability means that few consumers are even aware that such a material exists. Lack of awareness equates to lack of demand, which of course does nothing to encourage increases of available supply. To effectively bring lightweight panel products into the marketplace, manufacturers also have to be open to making product design changes, according to Ken McFadden, product manager for Stiles Machinery, Inc. McFadden says, “ Not many companies are willing to change their product mix. To make lightweight panel a success, come up with a new product, give it a name and brand it. If the concern is low perceived value, then don’t say what is inside. Market it as ergonomic and promote the environmental aspects of the material. If it looks like quality, people will buy it.” Another opportunity to utilize lightweight panel is to add tangible value to an existing design without reinventing the entire piece. For example, a common sideboard with a 22mm thick top board becomes “new furniture” with a 50 mm top board. That singular change adds perceived value to the piece. Adaptability is a powerful marketing tool. Hülsbusch notes that changes in the worldwide wood supply will eventually affect the demand for lightweight panels. “The all over increase of using wood for biomass means the availability of wood itself will become more of a theme in the supply chain. Add to that transportation, logistic and production costs of handling solid panels, and you can see the potential for having a high-quality, lower impact, lightweight substitute available.” s&p IMAGE COURTESY OF STILES

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Taking Care of Business For 45 years, Stiles has been helping manufacturers succeed by meeting the needs of a changing industry. Tasks once done manually can now be accomplished with the push of a button or a mouse click, allowing sophisticated software applications and CNC machines to work hand-in-hand with traditional craftsmanship and artistry. The world’s largest independent distributor of quality machinery, Stiles is focused on offering solutions that improve process technology and maximize production capacity. And, as the industry continues to evolve, Stiles maintains its passionate commitment to make your business a success. Find out how Stiles can help you take care of your business. Call Stephan Waltman at 616.698.7500 or email swaltman@stilesmachinery.com. stilesmachinery.com

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LAMINATE

ALWAYS ON TOP OF FASHION B Y

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IMAGE COURTESY OF ABET

It wasn’t until 1927, when someone had the bright idea to lithograph images onto sheets of laminate, that the decorative potential of the material was discovered. Shortly after, a clear melamine layer was added, giving the material legendary durability and ease of maintenance. Laminates have always been made by pressing several layers of material under heat and pressure. HPL is made with several sheets of phenolic- resin impregnated kraft paper (similar to brown bag paper) that are topped with a melamine resin impregnated décor paper. The fused layers become HPL, which can be affixed to a particleboard or MDF substrate. That original laminate has evolved into several variations over time. Compact laminate is made by fusing lots of layers of resin-impregnated kraft paper, which results in a self-supporting material that requires no

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substrate. Thermally fused melamine (TFM) is a decorative laminate made by fusing a resin-impregnated décor layer directly to a substrate with no kraft layer. Because laminates carry the aesthetic of whatever décor paper is used on top, they can meet virtually any design objective and a wide range of performance demands. Modern laminates reflect a waxing Euromodern sensibility. Compact laminate, like Abet Laminati’s Stratificato, creates thin, clean lines for kitchen countertops and back splashes. Currently, dark, horizontal striated woodgrain designs are used to add warmth to modern flat panel cabinet door fronts. Accents of custom print, whimsical geometric patterns and tactile details showcase the refinement of materials’ technology over time; including advances in resin formulation, performance enhancing overlays, textured embossing tech-

IMAGE COURTESY OF FORMICA

kay, maybe laminate was not originally the height of fashion. But that is because when Herbert Ferber and Daniel O’Connor invented it in 1913, high pressure laminate was intended to serve as an electrical insulator. In fact, it was created to be a replacement for mica, a silicate mineral that has excellent insulating properties, but was also quite rare and expensive at the time. And so Formica (get it? A substitute for mica?) was developed.

niques and sophisticated décor paper printing technologies. But what is interesting about laminate in general, is that since its inception, it has always been a fashion statement. Even when it wasn’t in vogue, laminate was involved in the conversation of materials and style. The engineered nature of the material makes it perennially relevant.

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1970s-1990s

Pre-World War II HPL found a While no doubt twenty years happy home in bars and dinfrom now teenagers will be ers. HPL, then the latest and hairspraying big bangs and the greatest, was even used wearing shoulder pads, the in that symbol of status and period between the 1970s style the RMS Queen Mary, and 1990s was a point in image courtesy of formica which sailed primarily the fashion that most contempoNorth Atlantic from 1936rary people would like to for1967. When the Art Deco movement, born in get. If HPL had feelings, it would feel that way Paris in the 1920s, flourished internationally too. During that timeframe laminates were from the 1930s until the World War II era, HPL being dogged in the domestic market. The was in high demand because it could emulate term “cracked Formica” showed up in magathe look of lacquer at a fraction of the cost. zines, giving the impression that the material During this time HPL’s resin cousin Bakelite was worn out and past its prime. But just as a was also sought after for a wide variety of fashion anthropologist could likely find some design applications. justification for why leisure suits existed, After World War II the baby boom was there are reasons why laminates were falling followed by a housing wave, and HPL began out of favor during this period. covering counter tops and kitchen tables on One of the biggest obstacles faced by all both sides of the Atlantic. As cheerful optiengineered materials, but particularly lamimism seeped back into civilian life, new colnates, is the engineering itself, or rather, the ors and designs were introduced. Patterns value engineering. Laminates are amazing in like Formica’s Boomerang and Skylark exempart because they can carry off any aesthetic. plified the ultra-modern, wipe-down, status When the only laminate was HPL, a designer quo luxury of the post-war western world. could be pretty darn sure the material would Going beyond kitchens and soda fountains, be durable enough for nearly any project. But HPL was also specified for commercial applinot every application calls for such a highcations, retail, hospitals, schools, airports performance material. And so all sorts of and restaurants all utilized HPL. As prosperlaminate variations with different levels of ity spread, so did HPL. It was a brave new durability were developed to lower costs. All world, and that was reflected in bright colors laminates carry a decorative layer, so they and exotic patterns of the material. Pushing could potentially all look the same, but there past suburban and out into the world of is a big difference in performance between a futuristic Googie style, HPL carried designs material engineered for flooring and one engifrom reserved to wacky. But regardless of neered for cabinet interiors. It is no surprise the irreverence of the aesthetic, the perforthat during this time designers, particularly mance of the material made it an undeniable those driven by price, often specified the asset to the design world. wrong laminate for the job.

images courtesy of wilsonart

1930s through 1960s

1990s- Present

Materials technology advances quickly, but information technology moves at the speed of light. There now exists a mutually beneficial feedback loop between laminate manufacturers and the design world that is constantly evolving. Not only are design professionals increasingly well versed in the technical specs of engineered materials, they help to drive the technology. Specifier demand is the impetus for some of the most exciting advances in engineered materials. The versatile co-creativity of the decorative surfacing world will undoubtedly help keep HPL on top of the world of fashion moving forward. s&p

images courtesy of abet

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Following is Finne's account of the renovation, his experiments and why he chose the materials he did. UPPER KITCHEN CABINETS:

Nils Finne

, AIA, and alumnus of Harvard Graduate School of design, is principal of the award-winning FINNE Architects. Raised in Norway and the United States, Finne established his practice in Seattle in 1994, bringing a Scandinavian understanding of craft and landscape to the Pacific Northwest. Dedicated to the idea of Crafted Modernism, Finne typically designs custom lighting, furniture, cabinets and hardware for every project. In addition to architecture, FINNE has produced more than 80 pieces of custom fabrications, which are also sold as stand-alone items. When Finne recently renovated his Seattle home, he took the opportunity to explore materials and processes that intrigue him. “The kitchen and master bath are filled with these experiments because I do things that I normally wouldn’t ask my clients to do,” says Finne. “I call them ‘maiden voyages.’” Finne is actively involved in fabrication, and was the general contractor for his home’s renovation. “Which is something I would not recommend to anyone,” he says. “I have a passion for learning the characteristics of materials and designing to those specific characteristics. Things don’t always work. Sometimes designs need amendment, but learning comes from working with materials.” 56

Five or six years ago I saw 3Form in a magazine or on the Internet. Usually the first thing I do when I see a material that intrigues me is to get my hands on some pieces of whatever it is. I have a whole shelf of material samples. For the upper kitchen cabinets I used resin panels with a band of Alaskan yellow cedar for the top and bottom. I am fascinated with natural patterns, and the 3Form material has a soft visual aesthetic. First and foremost they represent a wonderful opportunity to have nature inside. I strongly feel that translucent panels should be backlit, and in this case there is LED backlighting, which gives a very unique duality. The eco aspect of the resin panels is important to me too. We also have a moveable 3Form panel with a wild grass inclusion in front of an exterior window. It started out fairly green, but the natural UV exposure turns the panel a pale wheat color. I don’t particularly mind the color change, it is just an interesting aspect of the material. KITCHEN BACKSPLASH AND COUNTERTOP:

The backsplash is a custom glass tile that we developed with Anne Sacks. It is a glass mosaic made with ¼ inch strips of glass. We developed several samples before we found the right combination. The countertops are another experiment. In this kitchen I was

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“I have a passion for learning the characteristics of materials and designing to those specific characteristics.”

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determined to have a portion of the countertop as wood, in this case black walnut. I think it is a wonderful contrast with the resin panels. Of course in the sink area even I could not justify having wood, with the splashing and washing dishes and so on. Around the sink area and about two feet out on either side we have Belgium blue limestone. Then I brought in the walnut with a large finger joint where the two materials interlock. Of course anyone who works with wood and stone will tell you you’re absolutely out of your mind for attempting this, but the wood and stone contractors rose to the challenge. The wood was scribed very precisely to the stone. We used about a 1/8th inch veneer so we could sand it down should anything happen. It also added some durability. The veneer is laid up on MDF with a 1-¾ inch by about 2-½ inch solid wood edge piece. We’re fairly confident it will stay dimensionally stable. So far it has worked out well with no cupping or bowing or separation at the joint, and the feel of the counter is solid.

3-D laminates give them tops with soft edges and unique shapes, drawer fronts with seamless details, and unparalleled durability.

WOOD CABINET FRONTS

The cabinet fronts in the kitchen are Alaskan yellow cedar with a CNC routed texture. We milled them and then invited 16 college students over for a sanding party. The experimental part was that those panels have rails only, no stiles. The idea was to have one continuous texture.

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The cabinetmaker said I was crazy, since a normal 5-piece door allows for movement in the panels. When you only do rails you don’t have that. Sure enough, a number of panels cracked, but fortunately with the texture you can’t see the cracks. The boxes are framed, and all the hinges are Blumotion from Blum. Tab pulls routed into the top of the cabinet door panels give a thin, brushed, nickel line. I’m fascinated with engineered materials and all their various characteristics, and I use them often in my work. For the master bath we chose slab panels of Plyboo, which is an FSC-certified material that combines the plywood with the structure of bamboo. It is very vibrant and flexible. In this installation the trim is mahogany for the color. Adventures in Material

Finne’s eclectic body of work goes beyond architecture into custom design. It is evident that he enjoys experimenting with materials and lighting. “I will confess it is by intention. I spend huge amounts of time exploring materials, typically at very little cost to the clients,” says Finne. “There are various ups and downs. Sometime things don’t work, and it is not a failure of the material, but of the application. I guess I feel fortunate that my practice allows me to get involved in all these things that contribute to the idea of architecture, but are not strictly how architects are expected to be involved.” s&p

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Learning Curve Flat-lining

FOR DESIGN-MANUFACTURING SOFTWARE INTERFACE B

Architects and designers have more options to integrate with the production floor

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There was a time when the design department and the hands-on-fiber manufacturing side of a woodworking business were like clashing cultures – or maybe more like a left-brain, right-brain, sometimes-strained, relationship. This dysfunctional business scenario is changing with the development of new and improved software packages – on the design side, as well as in the production arena. Even better, those formerly disparate software products have been co-mingled to create a more harmonious, integrated family of design-to-build options.

With mass customization leading the charge for successful wood-based manufacturing companies, D-to-B takes on a more elastic meaning. It’s no longer a case of: “If you design it, we might be able to make it.” That’s evolved to: “If you design it and we can make it, how many do you want?” There was a time when there was a tall wall between the designers and architects and those who take those computer-generated designs and convert them to g-code for their CNC equipment. Peaking through the door to the plant just doesn’t hack it anymore. It wasn’t too long ago when blueprint drawings were the norm (in some cases they still are) rather than the rule. That’s also why pencils have erasers. (“Computers are just a fad and won’t catch on,” the CEO of a MAJOR office furniture company once said. Not surprisingly, he’s a long-time ex-CEO.) In some cases, designers and architects were more akin to draftsmen – a situation that often stifled creativity and slowed the entire design-to-build process. That meant longer lead schedules, more labor-eating time in the plant and, ultimately, a drag on profits. Not too long ago, this sometimes-ineffi cient process was nearly universal across the entire industry, with every sector – whether it be furniture, cabinets, architectural millwork, store fixtures or anything that falls under the umbrella of “woodworking” – adhering to

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these time-honored practices. “Paperless” meant you were out of drafting paper. Machine-software compatibility

The other side of the software compatibility coin is whether the product will interface seamlessly with any or all CNC brand machines. According to one vendor, it all starts with the up-front decision-making process. “The common problem stems from the software being too technical and hard to use,” says Ken Frye, sales manager for KCD Software, Inc. “The decision to purchase software is made by those who are involved at the manufacturing level and not enough emphasis is put on the design end of the software. “The software purchased should be able to be used by all the people involved in the process,” Frye adds. “Time and time again a company will purchase software that promises the ability to create anything dreamed up. With a great deal of extra work, many companies can make this software work at the manufacturing level but it is usually impractical for every day design.” Still, there are some doubts about whether

there actually exists a smooth, seamless integration of design and manufacturing software systems. Saying you can accomplish something like marrying these computer-generated entities is one thing, doing it is another, skeptics say. Safe to say, there have been some stumbles along the way. Yet, according to Clay Swayze, a software developer with Microvellum, Inc., design and manufacturing software integration is no lon-

ger a concept or a goal. It’s a proven reality. Plus, machinery brand is no longer an issue, at least for some software suppliers. “For us, the challenge isn’t interfacing with CNCs of any brand, since we’re able to connect with virtually any CNC out there.” Swayze says. “We write direct g-code for all CNC brands and treat each post as unique so our users can get the most out of their investment.”

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net business,” Swayze says. “Professionals in any business sector must be on top of technology and trends. Data management throughout the entire organization and processes is imperative for companies who want to be as LEAN as possible, right from the office, allowing the machine operators to simply browse the jobs at the controller and start running the code.”

Education, with a small degree of training, creates the needed lynch pins between concept development and production. To soften that point, software suppliers say, a comfortable indoctrination to that design-toproduction interface process is at the top of the must-do list for those seeking to widen their perspective on their entire business operation, not just the design side. “Today, we rarely even send someone onsite to complete connections, except in the rate occasion when a vintage CNC is purchased by one of our customers,” Swayze says. “Still, if you’re only evaluating technology for what it can do at this moment, you’re already behind. The key to a great business decision is being able to ‘see under the hood’ at what can be achieved.” THE DESIGN-MANUFACTURING RELATIONSHIP

Architects and designers must understand at least the rudimentary concepts of how that integration process works, as well as having a basic knowledge of what the associates in the shop or factory are capable or doing and what they are not able to produce, software suppliers say.

Flexibility in all phases of software integration is a major ingredient for successful implementation. Swayze: “Architects and designers mostly use AutoCAD, the very engine and backbone of our technology. We need to keep in mind that these architects and designers are working with more than boxes, so they require the power and flexibility of AutoCAD. Our users are able to harness the work already done – meaning data management – and push it forward into manufacturing.” Swayze says the learning curve issue for architects and designers is, in some cases, a non-issue. “The casework and millwork portion of a building is such a small part, architects and designers typically don’t take the time or learn enough about our industry to provide real manufacturing data,” he says. “Our customers just don’t want to have to do the work again – and they don’t have to.” On the flip side, end-user manufacturers should know how the design software creates g-code, Swayze says. “We recognize there is a distinction between a cabinetmaker and being in the cabi-

So what about the issue of a plant having multiple CNC machines? “Using our batch processing technology, we can simultaneously send g-code to every CNC in a shop,” Swayze explains. “To take it one step further, we can automatically route parts and g-code to certain machining centers based on part names, machining on individual parts or any other user-defined instruction.” CHANGING MARKETS

“Business is coming back, but prices are tight, so the industry is faced with lower profits or running their business better,” Microvellum president David Peel says. “A great exercise for any business is to clearly define all of their processes and to find all the ‘islands of information’ and ‘redundant processes’. Once identified, they are advised to take steps to eliminate what amounts to waste.” As the economy forces manufacturers to adjust to changing economic conditions, it also provides impetus for product adjustment and marketing, the need for creativity in developing those new products is a key ingredient, Peel says. “If the ‘Great Recession’ taught us anything, it’s that we can’t expect business as usual anymore,” says Peel. “We’re amazed at how many of our customers are serving completely different market sectors than they we just a few years ago. We empower our customers to excel at pretty much anything they conceive to do with our technology, so they have to be able to move to where business exists and thrive once again.” s&p

So what about the architects and designers? What is the challenge there, if any? Frye: “Why would you want to purchase software that skips the most important step – design? First, the software needs to be tested with all involved, especially the designers. If the designers are comfortable with the program and create designs then you are half way there. If the designers are creating successfully, then the CNC manufacturing becomes a whole lot easier. If the manufacturing department is reworking the job to make it correct for CNC output, then you have the wrong software.” 62

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American Adhesive Coatings LLC 978.688.7400

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Munksjo 978.342.1080 www.munksjo.com

www.AACC-Hotmelts.com

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Abet Laminati 800.228.2238 www.abetlaminati.com

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Northern Contours 866.344.8132 www.northerncontours.com

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American Renolit 219.324.6886 www.renolit.com/America/index.htm

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Omnova Solutions 866.332.5226 www.omnova.com

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Arborite 800.361.8712 www.arborite.com

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Riken USA Corporation 609.387.2011 www.riken-usa.com

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Arclin 877.689.9145 www.arclin.com

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Roseburg 800.245.1115 www.roseburg.com

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AWFS 800.946.AWFS www.AWFSfair.org

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Salice 800.222.9652 www.saliceamerica.com

Blum, Inc. 704.827.1345 www.blum.com

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Sappi Warren Release Papers 207.856.4205 www.warrenreleasepapers.com

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Boise Cascade 888.264.7372 www.bc.com

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Schattdecor 314.209.1655 www.schattdecor.com

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Columbia Forest Products 880.637.1609 www.cfpwood.com

23

Stevens Industries 217.540.3100 www.stevensmelamine.com

59

Composite Panel Association 866.4Composites www.DecorativeSurfaces.org

53

Stiles Machinery, Inc. 616.698.7500 www.stilesmachinery.com

35

Funder America, Inc. 336.751.3501 www.funderamerica.com

68 (BC)

Süddekor 413.821.9000 www.suddekorllc.com

2 (IFC)

Interprint, Inc. 413.443.4733 www.interprint.us

52

Surface Source International 973.598.0152 www.ssinorthamerica.com

57

JB Cutting Inc 586.468.4765 www.jbcutting.com

31

Syndecor/AET Films, Inc. 800.688.2044 www.syndecor.com

63

KCD Software 508.760.1140 www.KCDsoftware.com

47

Tafisa Canada 888.882.3472 www.tafisa.ca

20

KML-Kustom Material Laminates 888.358.5075 www.kmlcorp.com

6/7

TCM America 920.206.1766 www.surfaces-conference.com

37

Lamitech S.A. 571.644.9898 www.lamitech.com.co

12

Therm O Web, Inc. 800.323.0799 www.thermoweb.com

28

materialicious www.materialicious.com

51

Uniboard 800.263.5240 www.uniboard.com

61

Microvellum 800.204.0913 www.microvellum.com

34

West Fraser Sales Ltd. 780.413.8900 www.westfraser.com

67 (IBC) Perfecting motion

64

The Hidden Advantage ™

www.surfaceandpanel.com

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Context One of the great things about working on a magazine like Surface & Panel is that I get to talk to everyone from specifiers to research and development people to business consultants and manufacturers. I research every story from as many perspectives as possible in an effort to create not

“The point is that the industry is not static, materials and processing technologies advance, and fashion shifts constantly. Understanding context is the recognition that even things that remain steadfast change as the industry changes around them.”

just content, but context. There are endless things to learn in the world of engineered materials, and it is a luxury to be able to devote so much time to the subject matter. Not everybody can do that, but I think that in order to have a positive experience with engineered materials, whether in specifying them, adding value to them, or producing them, it is crucial to understand context. The industry has arrived at an unprecedented level of precision that is both a blessing and a curse. In the last few issues of S&P this has turned up as an underlying theme. Nils Finne, AIA (page 56) captured it in this issue when he said, “Sometime things don’t work, and it is not a failure of the material, but of the application.” I think that is true on so many levels. The most obvious is, of course, application as it relates to “value engineering,” particularly considering that many decorative surfaces can be made to carry identical designs. Modern materials are precisely designed for certain performance characteristics. Over specify and budgets are blown, under specify and the project falls apart, sometimes literally. Marketing is another area where the context of the material is critical. Todd Wegman of Stevens Industries spoke to this in the Surface Technology (page 18) story. Everybody knows how important texture is to design, yet trying to up sell commodity clients to textured TFM is next to impossible. Instead the top down approach that markets textured TFM for applications that traditionally use costly veneers creates an undeniable value proposition. It is the same product regardless of how it is sold, but one situation works, and one does not. Context also comes into play in terms of technology. The lightweight panel situation in North America is a great example of this. Peter Tuenker of Ima notes that while lightweight panels have a lot to offer in terms of design, logistical advantages and environmental benevolence, they also require investment in technology, both to manufacture them and to process them. Innovative companies like The Stow Company (page 32) are not only adopting new technologies, but also creating a contextual space for them within their product offerings and market segment. The point is that the industry is not static, materials and processing technologies advance, and fashion shifts constantly. Understanding context is the recognition that even things that remain steadfast change as the industry changes around them.

Suzanne VanGilder • Editorial Director • svangilder@surfaceandpanel.com

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www.surfaceandpanel.com

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Surface & Panel 2011 May