Laser technology reduces manufacturing costs of laminate floors
11/24/2006

Fig. 1: Concept for laser ablation of laminate overlay

In Germany more than 60 million square meters of laminate flooring are produced, and in Europe even 440 million square meters, continuing on an upward trend. Laminate floor panels are divided using saws in a flow path manufacturing process, and then profiled in a milling process. Depending on the size of the manufacturer, cut lengths easily amount to some 10,000 km in one single company only. Due to the hard laminate coating (melamin resin, corundum), tool wear (see illustration) presents the main part of the operating costs of a profiling machine, which typically amount to 200,000 € per annum!

This is where a new research project at the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) sets in, aiming at increasing the service life of tools for profile milling of laminate floor panels. For this, the material layer (overlay) responsible for the wear of sawing and milling tools shall exactly be ablated using a laser module.

A focused CO2 laser selectively ablates the overlay of 0.1-0.2 mm thickness, so that the milling tool does not wear anymore in the subsequent processing step (finish milling) as a result of the corundum coating. The solution includes a process analysis, control and assessment of the processing quality, as well as safety measures and economic evaluations. The work is carried out in close cooperation with a committee of laminate processing companies and mechanical engineers that is associated with the project.

In initial trials feed rates of 75-100 m/min were already achieved. Higher feed rates (200-300 m/min) shall be made possible by further scientific examinations and technical optimizations. Through the combination of selective laser beam ablation with a new milling sequence an operating cost reduction of up to 30% can be expected as opposed to conventional finish milling – and this does not consider the tool replacements that will become rarer in the future.

The project is supported by the German Society for Wood Research (DGfH) with funds from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

Business Development & Communications Department
Michael Botts
Public Relations
Tel.: +49 511 2788-151
Fax: +49 511 2788-100
The Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) carries out research and development in the field of laser technology and is supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport of the State of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Verkehr).