On 28 April, almost 70 stakeholders within the EPLF Association gathered in Buttenwiesen, Bavaria, for their Annual General Assembly at the invitation of extraordinary member Surteco Decor GmbH. The new meeting format “Laminate 2020 – Forum of Innovations” offered delegates a comprehensive package of information with kick-off talks, discussions and product presentations on digital printing. The EPLF’s “Technical” and “Markets and Image” Working Groups had already met the previous day in the nearby city of Augsburg to work on their current projects.
EPLF President Ludger Schindler was very satisfied with the opening event for the Association’s own Innovation Forum: “Here in the EPLF we offer a central platform, providing impetus for innovation across companies in the laminate flooring industry. Our new meeting format “Laminate 2020 - Forum of Innovations” has created a close-knit forum for our members which allows them to exchange new approaches and ideas effectively. We want this network to give a dynamic boost to the development of laminate flooring.” This year, participants witnessed an impressive presentation of concepts and trends on the central theme of digital printing.
New print technologies for opportunity and challenge
Specialist talks were held by Dr Martin Staiger (Surteco Decor GmbH): “Quo Vadis, Digital Printing?”; Göran Ziegler and Marcus Bergelin (Välinge Innovation Sweden AB): "Printing in the Third Dimension”; Claudia Küchen (Schattdecor AG): "Creative Opportunities for Floor Coverings with Digital Printing”; Victoria Neuhofer (FN Neuhofer Holz GmbH): "Unlimited Possibilities with Digital Printing”; and guest speaker Andreas Unterweger (Durst Industrial Inkjet Application GmbH): "Digital Inkjet Printing in the Flooring Industry – Capabilities, Limits and Trends”.
All speakers demonstrated their conviction that digital printing will continue its winning progress in the flooring industry – despite the costs for special inks remaining high. One of the advantages of this technology is that producers are able to react quickly to customer requirements and new trends because smaller batch sizes and customised decors are easy to make in any size. Using the digital route to prepare print data saves decor printers from having to invest in cylinders, drastically reduces make-ready time and minimises storages costs. Another useful advantage is the greater number of colour variations and the brilliant colours of the decors which can now be achieved. The general consensus amongst experts, however, was that the in-depth knowledge and skills of decor printers who use the gravure printing method are still crucial for digital printing, since this is the only way to guarantee that digital decor print files will meet the high quality standards required for print image and colour brilliance.
One further significant consequence of using digital printing can already be foreseen: digital data transfer opens up opportunities for switching over from centralised to decentralised print production – thereby fundamentally changing business models within the industry. All presenters stressed that digital printing should not just be used on its own as a substitute for gravure printing technology, but as an innovative basis for new product concepts. One speaker came straight to the point: “In the future, it will not be enough for producers to simply use digital techniques to replicate what has been done up to now using analogue.”
EPLF Executive Committee unanimously approved
President Ludger Schindler and Executive Committee members Paul De Cock, Eberhard Herrmann and Max von Tippelskirch were re-elected by EPLF members for a further two years in office. Technical Group Chairman Eberhard Herrmann introduced current EPLF projects to the meeting, and took the opportunity to thank all those involved for their work. One of the main news items from the Technical Working Group was that after successfully concluding the “Deep Textures” research project at the end of 2015, the EPLF will be publishing the results this year in the form of an Association guideline, so that the specialist information can be passed on to the industry as early as possible. All findings will then be incorporated into the DIN EN 13329 standard at the regular review.
Mr Herrmann introduced the Association’s newly-assisted project “chair castor testing”. By August 2018, the aim is to have developed a new test procedure in collaboration with the IHD (Institute for Wood Technology), Dresden. This will include a suitable device for testing floor coverings laid as floating installations with various locking systems, as well as glued floor coverings, whilst always taking underlay materials into account. Here, too, the EPLF is doing pioneering work beyond the laminate sector, resulting in practical benefits for the entire flooring industry.
Spotlight on Iran: Involvement in new regional markets
The opening of the Iranian market was a key topic at the EPLF Markets & Image Group meeting, and three advisers from consultancy firm Mena Legal Advisers in Tehran had travelled to Augsburg to talk about this. Experts Mazdak Rafaty, Anthony V. Raftopol and Reinhard Häckl presented the audience with an introduction to the political and economic framework conditions in Iran and its potential together with detailed information on business practices and special features of the legal system when doing business with Iranian partners. The speakers concluded that the Iranian market is complex, but highly promising for European quality manufacturers who become active in the market early enough. Since this part of the event was also relevant outside of the Association, it was opened up to interested members of the MMFA.
Dr David Gilgen (University of Bielefeld) spoke on another key topic: CSR regulations and voluntary commitments at a European industry association level. ISO 26000:2010 is an international standard for social responsibility; from the technical position paper in 1996/97 up to today’s EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations), the EPLF has upheld its sustainability strategy rigorously and with a high degree of continuity. That is why, when we consider this today within the EPLF, it is logical to potentially future-proof this strategy at the next level through a collective, voluntary commitment to compliance.
Positive Market Development
Max von Tippelskirch, Convenor of the Markets & Image Working Group, gave a positive picture of the economic situation in the European laminate flooring industry and presented the first quarterly figures for 2016: The market for laminate flooring produced by European member companies showed a slight rise during the first quarter of 2016 compared with the same period the previous year, but regional development continued to show the usual variations. Western Europe remained generally stable compared with the same quarter the previous year, with a slight upward trend. Eastern Europe has seen a rise, North America reported a clear double-digit growth, the slight downward trend in South America continues, and Asia is showing the second-highest rate of growth for the EPLF behind North America.
EPLF President Ludger Schindler set down the way forward for 2016 and beyond: “After several long years, we now have high expectations of our domestic markets having fresh opportunities for growth. Sustainable quality is one important pillar of our claim to leadership – the other is innovation. In the current market situation, it is more important than ever to actively shape these two leadership elements, because it is evident that in addition to quality, clients are looking for custom solutions to meet their requirements – and this is where European laminate flooring producers clearly offer the best products worldwide.”
elnd1604_b01: On 27/28 April, members of the EPLF met for their Annual General Assembly 2016, at the invitation of member company Surteco Decor GmbH. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b02: EPLF President Ludger Schindler (Meisterwerke): “Quality forms the foundation, innovation drives the success. After several long years, we now have high expectations of our domestic markets having fresh opportunities for growth.” – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b03: Managing Director of Surteco Decor, Dieter Baumanns, welcomes EPLF members to their company site in Buttenwiesen. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b04: Dr Martin Staiger (Surteco Decor GmbH) spoke on the key topic of entering into digital printing: "Quo Vadis, Digital Printing?" – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b05: Göran Ziegler and Marcus Bergelin (Välinge Innovation Sweden AB) presented a talk entitled "Printing in the Third Dimension” which included the paperless 3D printing process. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b06: Claudia Küchen (Schattdecor AG) held a comprehensive and informative talk on creative opportunities in digital printing for floor coverings. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b07: Victoria Neuhofer (FN Neuhofer Holz GmbH) spoke about “unlimited possibilities with digital printing” for producing customised profiles and edges. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b08: Guest speaker Andreas Unterweger (Durst Industrial Inkjet Application GmbH) offered an interesting insight into the capabilities of digital inkjet printing for the flooring industry. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b09: EPLF Managing Director Peter H. Meyer (left), together with the Association’s Executive Committee, conducted the Members’ Meeting in Buttenwiesen: (from left) Max von Tippelskirch, Eberhard Herrmann, Paul De Cock and Ludger Schindler. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b10: Eberhard Herrmann, Technical Group Convenor, announced plans for the publication of an EPLF Association guideline on “Deep Textures”. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1604_b11: Max von Tippelskirch, Markets & Image Group Convenor, drew a positive picture of the first sales quarter in 2016. – Photo: EPLF
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