Time To Stretch The Legs

Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Panel World May 2023

In May, I depart for my 17th consecutive Ligna in Hannover, Germany. If the pandemic hadn’t canceled the event in 2021, I suppose this would have been 18. Regardless, I’m sure by now you’re thinking this guy must be getting up in years.

I know there must be many other Americans who have a longer consecutive Ligna attendance streak than me. But I know of only one—Fred Kurpiel, who is co-chairman with me of the PELICE event held in the off-Ligna year, and who had stints with Siempelkamp and Imeas in addition to his long-ongoing academic and consulting work.

I also know of one person who also will be attending his 17th Ligna in a row—Cole Martin, sales manager at Dieffenbacher. In fact, Cole and I attended our first Ligna in 1989, and we met there when he was a product manager for Küsters and I was headstrong into moving Panel World onto the international stage. I remember the exact moment I met Cole on the Ligna floor, and we discovered we had each graduated from Auburn University— Cole in 1976 and me in 1977.

Ligna was also a first for Coe Manufacturing in 1989. That looks like VP Ralph Gage, who passed away seven years ago.

Looking back, it’s not surprising that I met Cole at Ligna in 1989, because I was making the rounds of all the continuous press manufacturers at the time. Continuous presses were coming on strong in the composite board sector, and Küsters was a continuous press pioneer, and at that Ligna it was emphasizing its new profile control system on its twofold design continuous press.

Siempelkamp made no bones about its priority at Ligna ’89, considering the theme of its display was “Continuous Pressing with Siempelkamp ContiRoll.” At least a dozen were in operation worldwide by then, including several at Louisiana-Pacific facilities in the U.S. A few years earlier, LP kingpin Harry Merlo had said to me of the continuous press, “It’s the thing of the future.”

Speaking of continuous presses, a lot of people at Ligna ’89 were speaking of the Bison Hydro-Dyn continuous press, and in particular about two of them nearing installment in the U.S. at a new particleboard plant in Mt. Jewett, Pa. called Allegheny Particleboard, the brainchild of forest products physicist Volker Stockmann, who almost brought in Weyerhaeuser as his partner, before that fell through, leading to General Electric as a major investor.

But by no means was my first Ligna only about continuous presses. Remember the spindleless veneer lathe? Raute had fine-tuned it enough by then to display and operate a 5 ft. production lathe on the show floor. It drew massive crowds.

I could go on and on, which back then Ligna seemed to do, while the late international sales rep for Panel World, Alan Brett, showed me the ropes. We didn’t have a booth for many Lignas, so we put on a lot of miles, during and after the show. Today, and for many of the previous Lignas, Alan’s son, Murray, and I have worked out of our booth, while Murray’s wife, Liz, has handled the booth duty.

We all hope to see you there.

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