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Välinge receives Outstanding Contribution award at Domotex asia/ChinaFloor

Viken, Sweden—Välinge received the “20 years of Outstanding Contribution Award” during Domotex asia/ChinaFloor’s 20-year anniversary gala dinner, March 19.

“We are very grateful for this award and for being recognized as a significant and loyal exhibitor through the years at Domotex asia/ChinaFloor” said Per Nygren, vice president of Välinge Innovation.

Välinge has been active on the Chinese market for a long time and has experienced a strong annual growth in the region. In order to serve the increased number of licensees as well as potential licensees, the operations in China continuously expands with more staff working with technical support and sales.

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My take: The ins and outs of innovation

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Steven Feldman

 

Innovation. It’s more than a buzzword; it’s basically a blueprint for survival in the face of competition. Talk to any manufacturer, and most will tell you their ability to innovate is what sets it apart from the pack. Whether it’s a product like Air.o from Mohawk; a new locking system from Unilin, Välinge or Innovations 4 Flooring; a novel dyeing process; or some new wrinkle in the waterproof flooring category, innovation is truly the name of the game.

It’s a phenomenon not unique to flooring. Every company in virtually every industry must innovate, the success of which is predicated on a company’s ability to convey the benefits to end users and why this innovation truly matters.

I was reminded of this the other day as I was reading an article on innovation in the adult beverage industry. Back in 2013, the vodka category was beginning to go through a real identity crisis. For a while, the major innovation was flavored vodkas. Believe it or not, the first flavored vodka to hit the market was Absolut Peppar in 1986, seven years after the birth of the Absolut brand. But nearly 30 years later, the flavored vodka boom was ending, and vodka companies were scrambling to figure out ways to hold on to their growth and still remain relevant in a marketplace that was increasingly shifting toward whiskey. This sort of parallels carpet’s position as the marketplace had been shifting in the direction of hard surface since the turn of the 21st century.

Grey Goose was one of those brands that was really trying to navigate these changing vodka waters. In 2013, Bacardi, which owns the Grey Goose brand, saw a 5% decline in sales. Part of this falloff was attributed to Grey Goose’s decision to not chase the flavor trend too hard, but a more significant factor was unexpected competition from non-premium brands like Tito’s Vodka, which took significant share away from premium players like Grey Goose. For our industry, the parallel could be Royalty Carpet Mills, which saw its market share erode in the face of competition from new mills like Engineered Floors, Phenix and Lexmark Residential, to name a few. Royalty did not chase the hard surface business, either.

The problem with the vodka category, and its players, was it had enjoyed such effortless success for decades with very little need for innovation. Sort of like carpet not facing any appreciable hard surface competition until the mid-1990s, when laminate hit the scene and hardwood and ceramic became more readily available to the masses. While carpet was not going to lose its dominance to any one hard surface category, the landscape was clearly changing, and mills really had no maps to navigate the road ahead.

What Grey Goose did with VX was akin to what Mohawk has successfully done with Air.o, which looks and smells like carpet but is billed as Unified Soft Flooring. Grey Goose VX isn’t technically a vodka: the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau slapped a “spirit drink” classification on the brand and bottle. Grey Goose VX is essentially Grey Goose vodka finished with a hint of cognac. The bottle does disclose that it’s a blend of 95% vodka and 5% cognac, the same ratio that’s common with spirit whiskey.

Grey Goose VX infuses some of the flavors that cognac offers without fundamentally disrupting the vodka experience. Sort of like Mohawk improving some of the attributes of carpet (health, installation, etc.) without disrupting the carpet experience.

The important thing to keep in mind with any innovation is pricing. The end user must see the value. The big problem with Grey Goose VX when it launched was the price. Given that Grey Goose vodka typically sells for around $30, the leap to $75 a bottle for Grey Goose VX was pretty dramatic. It begged the question, “Why not spend the money on a good cognac instead?” Once ultra-premium vodka leaves the $40-$50 price point, there’s a real question over what you’re really paying for. We saw that with laminate not too long ago. As manufacturers innovated to improve style and performance, the price could reach a point where the consumer could purchase real hardwood.

Innovation is a requisite for success. But it must be well thought out and provide a solution—at the right price.

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Välinge expands its horizons

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

Las Vegas—Historically known for its prowess in the area of locking systems, Välinge Innovation is now positioning itself as a complete manufacturer, revealing plans to open a new hardwood production facility in Viken, Sweden, this summer that will produce what it hails as “a new generation of surfaces.”

The Nadura and Woodura surface technologies from Välinge provide durable surfaces with outstanding impact and wear resistance and can be used with a wide range of applications such as flooring, desktops or kitchen countertops. The company said Nadura is an extremely durable solid surface based on recycled wood fibers. Woodura, marketed as “real wood but stronger,” is a reinforced wood surface created by fusing a thin sheet of wood with a powder mix layer. The powder mix fills up the natural openings of the wood to enhance the wood appearance and create a stronger surface than traditional solid oak.

How it’s produced: Wood fiber, binder, hard particles and pigments in powder form are mixed together, creating a unique wood powder mix. The wood powder mix is scattered on a carrier and stabilized with liquid and heat prior to being processed under high pressure at 180°C. In the Woodura surface production process, a wood sheet is applied on a stabilized powder prior to the pressing operation. This allows the wood powder to be fused together with the wood sheet.

The product is “one of a kind,” Fredrik Olsson, manager business development, told FCNews at Surfaces.

Välinge also showcased Liteback, a core technology for thermoplastic flooring—LVT, SPC and WPC—that it said opens up opportunities to reduce raw material consumption during production and to make transportation more efficient. “We see that coming to market in the next six months,” Olsson said. “It brings advantage from the producer to the consumer. You can recycle it and put it back into production.”

Liteback saves on freight, the company said. How so? By using a grooving unit, grooves are milled on the backside of the floorboard. The grooving unit can be integrated in the regular production process, thereby eliminating the need for extra handling of the panels. The material that is removed in the process is recycled back into the production process and reduces material consumption by up to 20%.

“We are not a one-trick pony,” Olsson said. “At any one time we have five or six projects going on. This is an industry where you either evolve or die, and we prefer to evolve.”

The company’s signature 5G and 2G locking systems have both been optimized for resilient and thin products. The 5G locking systems are available for flooring products in thicknesses down to 4mm and the 2G angling locking system down to 3mm. “SPC is growing like crazy,” Olsson said. “We have a technical team on the ground in Europe and China and they inspect first runs, work with the manufacturer and make between 50 and 100 visits a year. With our technical team, you can get to market much faster.”

All of Välinge’s development activities take place at its state-of-the-art research and design center in Viken, where it creates new concepts and provides manufacturing, testing and technical support. Since its founding in 1993, the company has signed more than 200 licensees for its signature click technologies.

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Swiss Krono, Kronospan sign long-term agreements with Välinge Innovation

Viken, Sweden—Swiss Krono and Kronospan groups have recently signed long-term agreements with Välinge Innovation, committing to promote Välinge’s 5G technology worldwide. Swiss Krono and Kronospan have both been Välinge licensees since 2005.

“Both Swiss Krono and Kronospan have been early adopters of the 5G technology to offer their customers fast, easy and robust installation and a significant part of their product portfolio is already today offered with 5G Fold Down technology,” said Niclas Håkansson, CEO, Välinge. “We are now pleased to have signed long-term agreements with Swiss Krono and Kronospan groups respectively and see them as valuable partners with the ability to continue to drive forward the most user-friendly locking system on even more markets.”

Välinge’s 5G technology is used today by more than 100 flooring producers around the world. The 5G technology aims to make flooring installations easier and more than 1.5 billion square feet of flooring has already been installed worldwide with 5G/Fold Down locking systems.

“We consider Välinge’s 5G technology as one of the most sought-after locking systems in the market and therefore plan to increase our volumes,” said Max von Tippelskirch, CSCO of the Swiss Krono Group. “We have learned that 5G is highly demanded by professionals as well as DIY-customers on several markets. With this strategic long-term cooperation with Välinge, we will continue to offer high-quality products to our customers, both from a technical and design perspective.”

Wolf Harig, who acted as senior advisor to Kronospan during the negotiations, explained, “This agreement means Kronospan has secured the future license needed to continue with the 5G technology.”

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Välinge acquires Inotec’s patent portfolio of fold down locking systems

Viken, Sweden—Välinge has purchased all Inotec’s patents regarding one-piece, fold-down systems (all side or short side), which are registered in countries such as the U.S., Canada as well as China and with many more applications worldwide including Europe. This patent portfolio also consists of several applications with some impressive specifications, which are expected to be granted shortly in Europe and other areas.

“We see the acquired patents as a good opportunity to strengthen and diversify our IP portfolio,” said Per Nygren, vice president, Välinge Innovation. “It further gives Välinge a consumer relevant product complement to the already well-known and established 2G- and 5G-systems. These IP rights also open up for an interesting patent strategy including the filing of several divisional applications in order to protect all aspects of the inventions disclosed in the acquired patents.”

The integrated double locking in both horizontal and vertical dimensions has shown confirmed manufacturability and demonstrated suitability for different flooring materials, such as laminate, wood, LVT and WPC.

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KIRKBI to acquire a significant minority stake in Välinge Group from KKR

Viken, Sweden—KIRKBI, the holding and investment company of the Kirk Kristiansen family, has signed an agreement to acquire KKR’s 49.8% stake in Välinge alongside the founding Pervan family that via Pervanovo Invest AB will maintain its majority ownership of 50.2%. The partnership with KIRKBI aims to strengthen Välinge’s position as a leading industrial R&D company and flooring producer.

“I would like to thank KKR for the support they have provided us, which allowed us to unlock investments behind new technologies,” said Darko Pervan, CEO of Pervanovo Invest AB and founder of Välinge. “In the past months, several investors have shown great interest in acquiring KKR’s stake but KIRKBI was our preferred choice since they are a family-owned, longer term investor with an excellent reputation. KIRKBI has extensive expertise in industrial operations, brand building and marketing and is the perfect partner for our new flooring business. This partnership will create a long-term foundation for the company to take the next step in its development of large scale production and marketing of powder-based Woodura and Nadura floors.”

Välinge, based in Viken, Sweden, draws its roots from the deep Swedish knowledge and expertise in wood engineering and technology. The company and its employees have a long track record of developing innovative and disruptive technologies such as laminate flooring, floor and furniture locking systems such as 5G and Threespine allowing for easy assembly, and Nadura and Woodura—the new powder based flooring material. Välinge currently holds around 1,800 patents and has expanded its IP portfolio significantly over the past five years, and may obtain over 10,000 patents from its existing applications.

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Laminate: The latest innovations in ‘click’ technologies

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.25 PMWith all the attention being paid to WPC-type floors—and rightfully so—one might think there’s not much happening in the way of innovations with other competing hard surface categories.

That notion could not be further from the truth as evidenced by what’s taking place in the mature-but-still-evolving laminate flooring sector. As several manufacturers continue to fortify their coreboards with materials and proprietary processes designed to better resist water or repel moisture altogether, several companies responsible for developing glueless locking systems are ramping up their own innovations.

Following is an overview of the latest glueless locking system developments along with a summary of how several click system licencees are incorporating those technologies in their respective products.

Innovations4Flooring (I4F)
One company at the forefront of glueless locking systems is Innovations4Flooring (I4F). Its latest innovation—3L TripleLock—provides a unique one-piece, drop-lock installation system for flooring panels that eliminates the need for an additional insert on the short side. The system works with all types of flooring materials, including laminate coreboard panels. According to I4F, the elimination of the additional insert on the short side provides manufacturers with the possibility to improve productivity levels while at the same time reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Furthermore, the 3L TripleLock click system (see illustration) is suitable for existing high-speed production. The good news for installers is shorter laying time. According to I4F, boards featuring 3L TripleLock technology can be installed up to 30% faster than basic click systems. Plus, there are no special tools required for installation.

While the 3L TripleLock system addresses installation issues on the short side of the plank, I4F’s Click4U technology, an angle-system, takes care of the long side. Combined with the drop-lock on the short side, the locking strength is very high. And just like 3L TripleLock, Click4U is suitable for existing high-speed production machinery.

I4F’s technology is already being used on millions of square feet of flooring around the world. “We believe the global flooring market is ready for change, and our innovations will play a significant role in this huge industry transformation,” said John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F.

Unilin Division Technologies
Unilin Division Technologies is the intellectual property unit within the Unilin Group that grants licenses with regard to Unilin’s patent rights.

Unilin provides several different glueless locking system platforms, including Uniclic, UnitFit (Plus and X) and Unipush. Uniclic is the industry’s traditional glueless locking technology for installation of flooring and wall panels, while Unifit Plus and Unifit X are designed for fold-down installation of flooring panels, which includes laminates.

Lastly, Unipush aims to make push-down installations even more intuitive and simple. How it works: By angling the long side of the panel in, the panel can be connected on the short side simply by pushing the panel down on the short side. No additional materials, i.e., inserts, or equipment, are necessary using this system.

To date, Unilin Division Technologies manages more than 2,000 patents in over 300 patent families. Several licensee partners include: Alsapan, AGT, Berry, BHK, Classen, Clarion Industries, Egger Group, Faus, Kronotex, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw, Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others.

Classen, a Unilin licensee, utilizes state-of-the-art locking technology in its Megaloc system. Manufactured in Germany, the Megaloc locking system Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.48 PMis DIY friendly and makes installation simple and seamless. In illustration: A laminate floor with a Megaloc system has a locking mechanism on the short side. The panels are simply dropped down into the joint of the previously laid row. As planks are lowered, a special patented insert/lock, located on the short end of the laminate, will lock the plank in place. (A locking-clip in the short grooves allows the next plank to be locked directly from above.) Once the panel is installed into place, the locking element also locks and a stable connection is created. All the installer has to do is press along the short side when he hears the click.

Other well-known lines featuring Unilin click technology is the Majestic collection from Quick-Step and Mohawk-branded laminates. Equipped with the patented Uniclic system, the products allow a quick and easy installation for floor layers. The products also score points in the aesthetics department. Majestic, for example, comes in a variety of decors from vintage/reclaimed to rustic and smooth and features surface texturing designed to mimic real wood floors. The line also touts resistance to water and scratching.

“Based on original wooden planks, the R&D team uses innovative techniques to develop a product that combines natural beauty with the practicality of high-end laminate,” said Ruben Desmet, general manager laminate, Unilin.

Uniboard is another Unilin licensee. The company’s lamiante flooring product range includes both 12mm and 14mm offerings, each featuring the “Bestlock” glueless locking technology. The end result, according to the company, is a streamlined installation anchored by strong locking joints.

Välinge
Välinge continues to demonstrate its knack for innovation with the latest iteration of its signature 5G locking system. Known as 5G-i, the new system is designed, in part, to expand the installation options for a variety of new floating plank flooring products hitting the market.

How it works: Slits underneath the groove side of the panel provide flexibility so the tongue side—when pressed downward in a single-action motion—clicks into place.

While the system is new, it doesn’t represent a difficult learning curve for installers. In fact, floor layers don’t have to learn a whole new procedure when installing the panels at all. Installers can take it apart the same way they would with the traditional 5G, the company said. Another advantage of the system is it reduces costs (no need for plastic tongues or insertion machines).

Välinge Innovation’s patent portfolio comprises more than 1,600 granted patents and a global license base of over 200 licensees. The company’s range of locking systems provides an industry standard for installing floating floors. Valinge licensee holders include: Armstrong, Abel Laminati, Alloc, Berry Floor, BHK, CFL, Classen, Faus, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others. For instance, all of Mannington’s current laminate collections (Restoration, Revolutions, Coordinations and Value Lock) can be laid down via a click-lock mechanism for fast, secure installations. While the company strongly recommends using trained, professional installers to achieve the best long-term performance of its various flooring products, it advises DIYers to follow all directions contained in the Installation Guidelines brochure.

Shaw’s VersaLock and LocNPlace patented locking technology securely installs laminate flooring panels on all four sides. This single-action locking system enables installation in a snap, literally, without messy, slow-to-dry glue.

Swiss Krono, which markets the American Concepts brand, is a licensee of locking systems developed by both Unilin and Valinge. The vast majority of these systems are designed for private-label applications.

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Välinge unfolds new locking system

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.40.16 AMPhoenix—Välinge, which pioneered the concept of glueless click flooring, continues to demonstrate its knack for innovation with the latest iteration of its signature 5G locking system. Dubbed 5G-i, the new system is designed, in part, to expand the installation options for a variety of new floating plank flooring products hitting the market.

“The new locking profile is just as easy to install as the traditional 5G system, but it has replaced the flexible plastic tongue with an integrated locking tongue,” said Susanne Hjorthagen, director of surface technology, Välinge Innovation AB. In illustration: Slits underneath the groove side of the panel provide flexibility so the tongue side—when pressed downward in a single-action motion—clicks into place.

Another plus, especially for installers who are already familiar with the 5G system, is floor layers don’t have to learn a whole new procedure when installing the panels. “Installers can take it apart the same way they would with the traditional 5G,” Hjorthagen said.

A big advantage of the system is that it reduces costs (no need for plastic tongues or insertion machines). With respect to locking strength, it is not quite as sturdy as the traditional 5G but it’s still strong enough to endure the rigors of a typical application, Hjorthagen said. Välinge conducted demonstrations of the new 5G-i system at the NWFA convention last month and at Surfaces back in January. The company reports strong interest among both existing and potential licensees. As Geir Waland, director of sales and marketing for Boen AS, stated, “5G has contributed to raising the standard of our hardwood and indoor sports flooring.”

Covering the bases

Välinge Innovation’s patent portfolio comprises more than 1,600 granted patents and a global license base of over 200 licensees. The company’s range of locking systems provides an industry standard for installing floating floors. At the same time, the company realizes all floors are not created equally. To that end, Välinge has developed solutions optimized for all flooring products in various widths and thicknesses. (For example, 5G-i comes in two different versions that have been optimized for laminate and LVT/WPC products, respectively.)

Following is an overview of the locking systems available:

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.39.45 AM Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.39.38 AM

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KKR acquires 50% stake in Välinge

valingeViken, Sweden–KKR, a leading global investor, announced the signing of three agreements to ultimately acquire a combined 50% stake in Välinge. Through the agreements, KKR will acquire the two 20% stakes of the current minority owners, Kronospan and Swiss Krono Group, as well as an additional 10% stake from the founder.

The partnership with KKR will allow Välinge to invest behind new technologies in fast growing areas such as luxury vinyl tile, tool-less furniture assembly, digital micro 3D printing and wood powder technology. The former minority owners, Kronospan and Swiss Krono Group, will remain major licensees of Välinge’s technology and have played an important role in commercializing Välinge’s earlier technologies related to floor locking.

“This partnership will create a foundation for the company to take the next step in its development, and KKR’s international network together with our joint financial resources will allow us to commercialize Välinge’s technologies faster and on a much larger scale,” said Darko Pervan, founder of Välinge.

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USFloors grants sub-license rights for COREtec to Flooring Technologies, Välinge

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 9.45.20 AMHannover, Germany—Following the issuance of USFloors’ third COREtec patent, the company entered into sub-licensing arrangements with Unilin’s Flooring Technologies and Välinge, granting each the worldwide right to sub-license USFloors’ COREtec patents to their respective licensees.

“Having the two most important intellectual property licensing companies in the flooring industry validate the strength and importance of our COREtec WPC technology by entering into these arrangements is a significant achievement for USFloors,” said Piet Dossche, USFloors CEO and president. “These licensing partners will help us shepherd and grow the new category of waterproof luxury vinyl flooring products that we have created while avoiding the chaotic and unproductive battles that prior innovative leaps in the flooring field have spawned.”