Fensterbau Grows in Scope and Scale

World's biggest fenestration industry event suggests new technologies on the way
May 1, 2008
Meetings & Events

Nuremberg, Germany--With nearly all the halls of the NurnbergMesse filled with exhibitors and crowded aisles and stands, fensterbau/frontale enjoyed another record year. The world's biggest window and door industry trade fair continues to grow in both scope and scale as it attracted what appeared to be a more international audience once again, but also a broader range of products.

More than 30 percent of this year's 700-plus exhibitors came from outside Germany this year. Attendance from outside Germany was also expected to increase. Veka, the Germany-based extruder, was expecting its fabricators to come from all over the world, reported Walter Stuckey, president of its U.S. operations-not only from nearby countries, but the Mideast, Asia and even Central and South America. "About the only place that won't be well represented is the U.S.," he said, where "today's market conditions aren't exactly encouraging people to travel to Europe."

The show expanded in size to fill two new halls of the Nuremberg trade fair complex this year. Accounting for some of the new demand were large, growing contingents of exhibitors coming from Turkey and Poland. An influx of exhibitors from other Eastern European countries was also evident, and while it's too early to tell how many of the 100,000-plus attendees came from this region, the number has been growing over the past several shows.

Other countries that traditionally have been well represented include Austria and Italy. Somewhat surprisingly, the number of exhibitors from China at fensterbau this year seems to have decreased from the 2006 edition of the show. One North American company made its way to fensterbau for the first time this year, however. Canada's Aquasurtech OEM featured its vinyl color coatings.

Adding frontale to its moniker several years ago to better target the fa¬ćade industry, this year's fensterbau/frontale saw a marked increase in exhibitors featuring aluminum curtainwall and storefront products. These included first-time exhibitors Kawneer (its European unit) and Reynaers Aluminum from Belgium. These two firms' exhibits also featured what might be considered to be some of the most leading edge products. Kawneer was showing a photovoltaic panel and solar energy wall system, while Reynaers was showing exterior systems that could be designed to shade windows and curtain walls from the hot sun, redirect natural daylight more effectively, or even collect solar energy. SchŸco, which has exited the vinyl window business to focus more on commercial and solar products, was also showing a window incorporating a photovoltaic panel as an awning. Vinyl extruders and window manufacturers exhibiting at Fensterbau stayed more focused on saving energy than producing it. Many extruders were showing new deeper frame depths and other upgrades targeted at numerous national and regional requirements. "Bonded glass" or wet-glazed systems designed to reduce sightlines were also touted in a number of displays. Colors and finish options continue to expand also. One of the most interesting offerings was a metallic finish-a look similar to anodized aluminum-on vinyl profiles produced by Gealan, a Germany-based extruder.

Door and window hardware products dominated three of Fensterbau's nine halls. Perhaps the most noteworthy trend in the products on display was the continued expansion of electronic options for both operating and locking windows and doors. Gretsch-Unitas, the parent of G-U Hardware in the U.S, was featuring a new electronic operator for its lift-slide door system that's concealed in the header. It was also showing an array of remote and card-control access systems, as well as biometric openers-devices activated by a fingerprint. Demand is growing for these types of products in Europe, Pat Junker, GM of the U.S. firm, suggested, and it's likely to grow in North America-although, he added, many window and door manufacturers are still trying to figure out what features make sense to automate.

Hoppe North America's Jeff Shilakis also foresees that possibility, once consumer needs and preferences are better determined. In Germany, Hoppe was displaying an electronic security device that is actually powered by the cranking action of the handles. The hardware can signal a home security system that a window has been opened, or left opened. 

Other electronic hardware on display included automatic door opening systems from KFV, Roto, Winkhaus and numerous other suppliers. This was by no means the only focus in displays of hardware suppliers. Roto and G-U were featuring new concealed tilt-turn hinges that create a clean new look to the European product design. Although tilt and turn windows, the dominant style of Germany and the Fensterbau show, remain a niche product in North America, it is a growing business, suggested Roto's Greg Koch. More companies are starting to enjoy more success with these lines, particularly in high end markets, he added.

This year's Fensterbau once again featured a broad array of equipment-with increases evident across the board for vinyl, aluminum and wood processing machinery. Notably, Rotox was using the show to introduce a new four-point welder developed specifically for the North American market. The quad-stack unit was designed from the ground-up with input from a number of the U.S.'s largest manufacturers, reported the company's Joe Sigmund. As a result it offers a number of features that will enable them to both speed processing and improve quality.

An even more unusual site at the event was an American-made vinyl welding machine.  A four-point welder built by Greller & Co. was on display in the booth of KMW Engineering. The welder is based on the Actual design, which is well-known and still used in Europe, although the company is no longer around, explained Greller's Dennis Brady. The fact that it has an established brand, combined with the low dollar value, now presents the company with an export opportunity.

Although it featured automated welding and cleaning lines geared toward European producers, Urban was showing a new machine for applying bedding sealant, which, according to the company's Volcker Lamprecht, had good potential for North American manufacturers. The company has sold a number of these machines in Europe, he noted, and he was looking forward to put it in front of U.S. and Canadian attendees to getting their opinion.

The already high number of suppliers of cutting, fabricating, welding and cleaning equipment that regularly comes to fensterbau seems to have expanded this year, again reflecting an influx of new suppliers from overseas. Besides Urban and Rotox, among those taking the largest displays were Elumatec, Emmegi, Federhenn (now teamed with William Hollinger), Fom, Pertici, Rapid, Schirmer and StŸrtz. Newer names included Murat, Ozcelik and Yilmaz from Turkey, and Jinan Deca from China.

Combined with Holz-Handwerk, a woodworking event, fensterbau/frontale also provides an opportunity to see a huge array of woodworking equipment. Among the big suppliers targeting window and door manufacturers were Michael Weinig and SCM. The Homag Group used the event to introduce a new PowerProfiler CNC machine for automated production of custom wood windows and doors.

A look at some of the machinery on display, as well as the windows, doors and hardware featured in Germany, can be found in a special fensterbau/frontale 2008 slideshow.

Although this year's edition was clearly a success, it did appear to see a drop-off in U.S. attendees-no doubt the result of the weak market and a weak dollar. It can be hoped those conditions won't prevail until the next fensterbau/frontale, scheduled for March 24-27, 2010. More information about the biennial event is available at www.askfrontale.de.

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