Hardwood flooring producers need to meet ever-increasing demands from their customers while remaining cost competitive. As one example, hardwood flooring customers these days look for wider and longer planks. A wider variety of species choice and shorter delivery times are expected, and hardwood flooring producers strive to deliver healthy, environmentally friendly, and sustainable products to the homes of their customers.
Cost plays a major role, too. While some end-consumers still prefer solid wood or engineered flooring with thicker wear layers, many are not willing to pay for the additional thickness and gladly settle for the technically sufficient and more economic wear layer thicknesses between 2.5 and 4 mm.
An innovative solution to these challenges by hardwood specialist Danzer has been quickly adopted by the engineered hardwood flooring industry. Starting from zero in 2012, the company today sells almost 2 million square meters of sliced wear layers annually. Key species are European oak, American walnut, and hard maple complemented by a variety of smaller volume domestic and imported species according to customer needs.
Technical innovation is the secret to this success story.
With more than 80-years of experience as the largest producer of decorative hardwood veneers globally, Danzer has developed a structured approach to innovation and a track-record of successful commercialization of new ideas in the hardwood industry. Three technical innovations were the key to delivering superior value to its engineered hardwood flooring customers.
Proprietary Slicing Equipment
At the core of Danzer’s unique ability to slice thick veneers in large dimensions is its proprietary vertical slicer, the VS4000. Danzer began developing its own veneer slicers more than 20 years ago, when no machine supplier offered the optimal technology to maximize yield and ensure the perfect product. Today, Danzer’s patent-protected vertical slicer VS4000 offers the industry’s best raw material yield and thickness consistency due to proprietary technologies like the patented floating pressure bar.
The Danzer VS4000 produces high-quality vertically sliced wear layers up to 4 mm thick, and with zero kerf. The wear layers are sliced directly from logs, starting naturally with material that is very long (8-12’) and wide (13-24”), which suits today’s long and wide plank trend. Danzer’s technique is resource-friendly, since the entire log is sliced into usable material, whereas the traditional sawing process produces sawdust waste every time the saw blade advances through a log. Danzer’s technique is also less time consuming, which translates to quicker production turnaround and lower costs throughout the value chain.
Danzer’s concerted effort to maximize the yield from every tree sustainably harvested led to CT scanning prior to slicing so that a virtual image of the inside (i.e., internal characteristics, wood grade, and quality) allows Danzer to fully realize the tree’s potential. Sometimes the ideal use is lamella production, other times another use is best. In this way, Danzer lets the resource reveal its optimal use.
Unique Drying Capabilities
After Danzer’s wear layers are sliced, they are placed in a specialized kiln, designed specifically for lamellas. The kilns ensure that the moisture content is equalized throughout each plank to +/- 1 percent of the manufacturer’s requirement.
During the entire development process, Danzer worked closely with leading hardwood flooring producers to find the right parameters for each process step and ensure a consistent high-quality product. That process took approximately two years.
Danzer’s flooring customers benefit from this new source for wear layers. Considering the size, scope, and location of U.S.-based production facilities, the company is in a unique position to handle even the largest jobs with tight turnaround times, and to respond swiftly to non-standard orders. And so, Danzer’s customers can stay focused on their own sales and marketing instead of worrying about procurement and timely deliveries.
The product Danzer offers provides many advantages:
- Cost-efficient large dimensions for single plank flooring. Because Danzer’s wear layers are vertically sliced from logs, longer and wider boards can be more efficiently produced than in a traditional lumber sawing process.
- Maximum flexibility. More than 50 domestic and imported species are available for hardwood flooring in North America. Danzer customers have access to a broad portfolio of species without adding cost or complexity to their supply chain.
- A responsible product. Using sliced instead of sawn wear layers saves thousands of truckloads of valuable hardwood trees, because no sawdust is generated. Plus, virtually all wood processed at Danzer facilities is certified. Future generations depend on that.
- Focus on what customers are actually paying for. With Danzer’s 2.5 to 4 mm thick sliced wear layers, producers can capitalize on a growing market segment that won’t pay for additional thickness. No costly and time-consuming changes to manufacturers’ production set-up are required.
- A truly North American product: Danzer has been processing hardwood in North America for more than 50 years. The majority of its sliced wear layers are produced locally.
In the last five years, Danzer has supplied wear layers to more than 100 customers around the world. To do so, Danzer has invested more than $20M in its flooring wear layer production capacities. Based on the market feedback to-date, Danzer will surely grow this business further.
Tracy Rowlett is Flooring Lamella Specialist at Danzer Veneer Americas, Darlington (PA). For more information on Danzer, please visit danzer.com/flooring or call 724.827.3720.