The idea of edge banding evolves way back to Egyptian times. Egyptians were the first to invent table to keep things elevated from the floor. However, they started with stone tables. They later used playing boards on elevated tables and many other smaller tables for different usage. The Chinese followed later and used it for writing and for Arts. The Romans and the Greeks used them for dining and other applications. Industrialisation later advanced and stone tables turned to wood and that’s how the idea and usage of edge danding came to existence.
Whenever the topic of edge banding arises, it is difficult to infer if one has to speak about the materials involved in its process, or rather speak about the machinery involved in the relative field.
Edge Banding is also one of the great subjects that many industry insiders nurtured and specialised so far. Numerous companies from all over the world claim that their equipment is the best thereby instigating reputed manufacturers of such equipment and raw materials to come out with another design beating the previous one.
In the hectic and noisy world in edge banding, only the fittest survive. The word fittest unfortunately stands for the ones who can deliver a reliable machine at the most comfortable cost. Therefore, in this article everything that may be required to mention and utilised in the department of Edge banding.
Although modular furniture manufacturing is continuously evolving since the last three decades, there still seems to a lot of scope left for the improvisation and development of the edge materials, machine design, quality, workability, feasibility and various other aspects involved in the trade.
These days, one must also consider market conditions and must be prepared to face the worst if not the best as far as profitability is concerned. Having said that, the present worldly scenario we have been facing and that is due to the COVID 19 pandemic which has devastated businesses and many manufacturing houses across the globe.
Edge Banding Opportunities
The world of edge banding has given rise to many an opportunity to various departments which cater and feeds a number of human heads from time to time. The following products are required whenever anybody procures an edge bander machine. They are:
-Glue / Pasting solutions
-Edge banding tapes
-Fluids for anti-static and cleaning purposes.
-Knives / circular saws.
-Duct collections systems / aspiration systems
-Raw materials like panel boards (particle, medium-density fibreboard, plywood, Composite etc)
-Spare parts thereafter for maintenance.
There are huge numbers of personnel all over the globe who live and continue to serve this field thereby contributing to its own growth.
Subsequently, we are continuously observing the closure of many manufacturing plants all over the world due to this dreaded disease. It must be observed that Quality plays such an important role even during such conditions.
High quality manufacturers of commodities in the wood industry and other products are the only ones who seem to survive such conditions. The reason being that quality products are always sold at a price which is far higher than its local cheap counterparts.
Due to this very fact, quality producers survive a longer stint due to the decent profits they have been incurring over the decades. Whereas, the local cheaper products are the ones who survive literally on a day to day basis by delivering products at the door step and above all offering a credit to its users.
The effect of this is devastating whenever there is a global shutdown or a recession which can cripple the manufacturer of such low-quality products. This can be applicable to any product ranging from Consumables to Capital machinery. The moral to the above is that, one must maintain quality and ethics at all times to survive disasters.
Edge banding is a process where a thin layer of a desired material (0.4 mm to 3mm) which is approved and accepted by the industry and is applied to the panel or board to improve the finished look, and also to protect the panel from dust, dirt or moisture from entering the panel.
One side of the edge banding is sometimes pre-glued. But present day edge banding tapes are mostly without glue applied and the application of the adhesive is taken care by the machine itself.
It must be observed that this is one of the most important parts involved in the manufacturing of modular furniture. A good quality edge banding not only increases the aesthetics of the products, but also adds life to it.
Off course, one must agree that quality comes at a price. So, there must be no compromises that need to be made whether it is in the product or in the service involved. Edge banding is made by using various materials like ABS, PVS, acrylic, melamine, veneer and solid wood. While I was browsing through some of the details of edge banding, I read that these tapes were also knows as wonder strips. The glue thereafter to be used are in variants like PVC, PUR, PA, APOA and PO.
During the primitive days in the processing of modular furniture, edge banding was made by pressing the pre glued tapes onto the panels by using a manual hot iron press upon the edges thereby facilitating the adhesion.
Later, as the technology improved, manual edge Banders came into existence. This machine was a standalone type which supplied hot melted glue to the revolving shaft while the operator would manually press the panel against it. Manual edge Banders can apply glue to Straight edges and also to curved panels which cannot be done even to this day by the most expensive through feed Banders.
Therefore, you can see a manual edge bander in any factory all over the world however big it might be. However, CNC routers attached with a gluing attachment (basically a manual edge bander fitted on to the CNC router with a lot of electronics and software attached) are available which can rout and apply the edge on a single machine. But these are mighty expensive and cannot be afforded by even medium scale production units.
Then coming of the through feed edge banders created and continued to create a sensation even to this day. This machine is the heart of any production plant and runs almost throughout the shift or sometimes throughout the day. However, there are many through feed machines with different configurations to handle the type, load and other sophisticated demands by the user.
Anyway, top reputed manufacturers from all over the world of such machinery always have a solution to give to their clientele. From single sided edge banding to square edge banding, there are too many machines in the present-day market. Since the edge banding machine is nothing but a combination of smaller machines designed to do its particular and assigned operation, this can be a very complicated equipment which needs care and attention as far as maintenance is concerned.
Edge banders begin with 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and more operations inbuilt and are priced accordingly. Reputed makers charged the skies but they still find a client who can afford them. Nevertheless, such machines are top of the class as far as design, life, and quality and last but not the least they are served with the best service with also comes at a price. The following are the basic operations that are present in basic machines in a four-operation edge bander. They are:
The next level comes with a glue scraper, The addition of other operations like an auto panel thickness calculator, pre-miller, anti-static sprayer, fine and rough trimmers , dual or four-corner rounding motor facility, milling hoggers, cleaning sprayers, oscillating buffers and lastly colour rejuvenators keep increasing the lengths, speeds, cost and other aspects of the machine. These can be called the first level in the family of through feed edge banding.
The next generation machines are fitted with multi- spool holders to accommodate more than one type of edge and can sometimes go to a maximum of eight magazines in one drum.
The advent of square edge banding is the next level where two parallel sides of the panel are simultaneously applied with the edge. This nothing but another similar edge banding machines aligned in parallel and synchronised perfectly and which takes care of the edge feeding.
The advent and entry of the process called the Line manufacturing contained another set of Edge Banders which would take care of the other two sides of the panel with a turn table in between them. A turn table rotates the panel sent out from the first pair of square edge Banders to prepare it to get the other two sides edged.
In this way, the speed and quality are tremendous and with the elimination of wasteful man power, the returns can also be faster to the production house. Thanks to the never ending, never say die spirit in the hearts of the designers in the field of edge banding, unexpected speeds and unimaginable processes have been introduced into these wonderful and noisy machines.
An edge bander can be very noisy at times when all the motors and its accessories are in full flow. Accessories can be dust collection systems, compressor, etc. which hare attached to these machines. A high-end through feed edge bander can sometimes consist of more than 25 High frequency motors screaming at 12000-18000 rpm constantly.
During the last LIGNA show in Hannover, Germany, there were edge banders which were displayed and which had unique characters. It was somehow confusing to understand if there was a need for such a machine and if there were any buyers who could afford its cost.
Most importantly, the question was ‘Is there a necessity for such a machine at my plant?’. In fact, this machine was no doubt extremely fast with feed speeds of more than 28 mts/min, but also could edge band different textures of edges to different panels fed onto the machine at one time.
It means, that when the first panel was programmed to edge the panel with, let’s say a type of textured edge, the panel behind it could be edge banded with another colour/ texture as programmed in its memory. There were more than eight different shades loaded onto its spool/drum allowing the machine to select the required shades almost immediately.
What could be actually observed was the power of the software rather than the functioning of the machine. The justification to be provided to use of such a machine can run to several pages of explanation which may not be amicable at this time.
Whatever said and done, edge banding will continue to stay and will be used as long as the world of modular furniture exists. The only changes that may continue to expand may be the type of edges that may evolve due to the continuous research and development taking place in their respective fields.
Composite materials may be the next type of raw materials that will be used in the manufacturing of Edge banding tapes. Due to the stringent laws and rules made by the United Nations and other disaster management organisations from all over the world on topics like global warming, plastics will be banned in the near future although there are many countries that have already started the reduction of usage of plastics.
As mentioned earlier in this article, the edge banding industry has also given ample opportunities to the manufacturers of edge banding machinery to upgrade the technology of their machines.
Since long, the application of the glue to the edge tapes was through a glue pot or a bowl which melts the glue and then transferred to the rotating shaft which applies it to the Edges. The latest trend is that the glue is melted by laser technology. This has totally eliminated the usage of the glue pot system thereby reducing the maintenance of the machine to a large extent.
The machine is neater but the system of edge banding with laser is pretty expensive. There is also the hot air technology where hot air of about 150-170 deg C is directed to the edges to melt the glue and thereby to enable the process.
But it must be observed that in both these processes, the edge banding tapes are pre glued types. Pre-glued edges are edges with glue already applied on one side of the face. Every time we think that the technology for Edge banding is saturated, something new arises to everyone’s delight.
Lastly, with the current devastation to human lives due to the ongoing pandemic caused by the COVID-19, many a business have taken a nosedive while some have perished.
It might take a little more time for the business to take its normal position and thereafter for reputed companies to begin their quest for improvisation of their equipment for better output and also making them more economical for prospective buyers to make it affordable.
It is very important for anyone to be positive at the moment rather than to think otherwise. Like Helen Keller once said, “face the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow”.