Välinge is a world leading R&D and IP company in the flooring industry.
Välinge Innovation, founded in 1993, pioneered the concept of glueless click together floorings and changed the way people install and use floorings. The company’s worldwide-patented technology introduced a speedy and easy way of installing floorboards mechanically, without using glue.
The technology base has gradually been extended to all fields related to floating floorings but also to other applications such as wall panels and furniture components. Several new companies have been founded specialized on customer support, different types of R&D and IP activities.
Välinge has one of the most comprehensive patent portfolios in the flooring industry comprising about 1.000 granted patents, a license base of 140 licensees and the most advanced R&D centre in the world related to laminate and wood flooring technology.
The flooring activities of the Välinge group are organized in two different business segments:
- Välinge international (60% ownership)
- Välinge Invest and Välinge Flooring technology (100% ownership)
The main activity of Välinge International AB and its subsidiary Välinge innovation AB is R&D, customer support and licensing. Välinge Innovation AB holds a major part of the Välinge group´s flooring related IP.
Välinge Invest AB has in the recent years strengthened its flooring activities considerably. Bjoorn, a web based sales company, was formed in 2007. The shareholding in Välinge Flooring technology was in 2011 increased from 50% to 100% and a new wholly owned R&D department was formed that has generated a comprehensive IP portfolio.
Välinge Innovation handles all license agreements related to the Välinge group´s combined IP portfolio.
Since the start in 1993, Välinge International has been an extremely profitable company in spite of the fact that R&D cost, mainly related to surface and digital technologies, has increased considerably in the recent years. Accumulated expenses for patents and R&D are about 160 MEUR. Present annual expenses for patents and R&D are about 20 MEUR and this is most likely more than 50% of the total R&D costs for the whole world wood and laminate industries together.
Välinge International has about 80 employees who are mainly involved in R&D and customer support. In addition Välinge invest has also several employees involved in R&D and the group cooperates with many external consultants specialized in material and production technologies.
License base and IP
Välinge’s licensees have successfully introduced a wide range of products based on the company’s technology, starting in 1996 with the revolutionary Alloc® Flooring. Since then, Välinge has focused on the work to increase the R&D activities, expand the patent portfolio, develop new technologies and form strategic partnerships with other IP holders.
Välinge and its 140 licensees constitute one of the largest flooring groups in the world and they will vigorously protect their intellectual assets in the glue-free click flooring area and in other new flooring technologies protected by patents.
Välinge has one of the most comprehensive patent portfolios in the world related to wood, LVT and laminate floorings comprising about 1.000 granted patents and about 8.000 pending applications. The patents are of a high quality and have been successfully defended in numerous oppositions, court cases and nullification actions during the past 15 years.
The Välinge R&D and IP is related to five main technology fields:
- Basic locking systems
- 5G Fold down technology
- Surface Technology
- Core technology
- Backing Technology
Surface technology has gradually replaced locking system as the most important technology and about 80% of all R&D expenses are related to powder and digital technologies aiming to create advanced decors, embossing and wear resistant surfaces.
The world flooring market is one of the largest market segments in the global economy. The annual demand exceeds 12 billion m2. This corresponds to a product value at the end consumer level of more than 200 billion EUR. The world demand is expected to rise to more than 15 billion m2 during the next five years. The Asia/Pacific region will show the highest growth rates.
The potential market for the Välinge technology has increased from about 1 billion m2 to about 5 billion m2 due to introduction of new technologies that may be used to improve properties of conventional flooring products or to replace the products with new or similar floor types that may be produced and installed in a more cost efficient way. The powder technology provides increased wear properties and may be used to increase sale in commercial application.
Välinge technology may also be used in other building panels such as wall panels and furniture components
Välinge IP ownership.
The major part of the Välinge IP is assigned to the 60% owned subsidiary Välinge International AB. The most important patents are related to locking systems, powder technology, photocatalytic nano particles and digital inkjet technology.
Several patents related to new digital technologies such as digital Binder and Powder printing (BAP), digital embossing and digital overlays are directly owned by Välinge Invest AB/Välinge Flooring Technology AB. All license agreements are handled by Välinge Innovation AB - a subsidiary of Välinge International AB.
Customer support is one of the main activities. Välinge provides extensive support to its licensees such as prototype production according to customer specifications, education and special activities aiming to improve production efficiency and quality. Välinge is also a major supplier of special materials, components and equipment that are needed for introduction of new technologies. The introduction of surface and digital technologies is supported by start up volumes of powder based WFF floors and extensive development of unique surface décors and structures.
Välinge’s business is completely based on R&D. In spite of deep and extensive knowledge within the flooring field, the company is not involved in commercial flooring production and will not compete against its licensees. The license income is to a major extent used to develop new technology in order to further support a profitable growth of our licensees based on new innovative products and cost efficient production.
Nearly all of the company’s 80 employees work in R&D. In addition, Välinge uses a wide range of consultants and partners world-wide mainly in the fields of patents, litigation and production technology.
In 2001-2003 Välinge invested 10 MEUR in a very advanced 5 000 m2 R&D centre for floorings in Viken. The main goal was to develop new and improved locking systems for wood and laminate floorings and to support its licensees with prototype production.
In 2007 Välinge decided to broaden its technology base from mainly locking systems to all technology fields related to laminate and wood floorings, especially surface technology. The decision was taken to extend the R&D resources considerably by increasing the organization to more than 100 technicians and to build a new R&D centre for flooring in Viken, which when completed would become the largest and most advanced in the world.
The first step of the new R&D center was completed in 2010 and the investment amounts to about 50 MEUR. Office space, lab and production facilities have been extended from 5000 m2 to 17000 m2.
The new R&D centre is equipped with a full size flooring factory with a theoretical capacity of 20 Mm2 of various flooring types, especially floors with advanced 5G fold down locking systems. Among the equipment there are eight very advanced and flexible profiling machines, several with 12 motor stations on each side allowing a speed up to 200m/min. One of the production lines is the most advanced in the world.
The R&D center is equipped with the largest climate chamber in the world allowing testing of flooring surfaces up to 1000 m2, advanced digital lab equipment, chemistry laboratory, pressing capabilities and fully equipped workshops for wood and metal processing.
The new equipment is used to develop new flooring technology and to make samples and start-up products for the licensees. The equipment is also used for advanced education and training related to production methods, tooling technology and quality control as well as for joint development projects together with Välinge’s licensees and partners.
Välinge Powder technology.
The most advanced part in the new R&D center is a full size demonstration factory for production of new "paper free" Wood Fiber Floors based on the unique Välinge Powder Technology.The factory comprises equipment to produce and mix powder, which is scattered on a core and pressed in a conventional 4*8 ft laminate press. Välinge is also able to produce powder which could be delivered together with specially developed scattering equipment to a production facility of our licensees in order to facilitate start up production.
Inkjet powder printing.
Välinge has developed and installed digital printing equipement that allows production of an unlimited range of advanced powder based wood, stone, slate and tile designs that could be provided in a few minutes as samples for a new product range. Digital print heads are used to inject water based ink into the powder layer.
In 2007 Välinge took the first major step to broaden its global presence on local markets and Välinge Local Support Centers were established in Belgium, US and China.
New R&D organization.
Välinge invest AB initiated its own R&D activities in 2011. A new R&D organisation was formed with the aim to develop completely new technologies related to digital and surface technologies.
Printing with blank and dry ink.
One of the main invention that the new R&D department of Välinge Invest AB has created is a new industrial digital Binder And Powder (BAP) printing technology that makes it possible to apply large amounts of pigment coated particles, so called “dry ink”, and to bond the particles in well defined patterns with a water based transparent binder that does not include any pigments, so called “blank ink” The new technology is compatible with the resins and materials used in large scale flooring production. Major cost savings may be obtained.
1. Conventional print heads apply blank ink on a surface. 2. Dry ink comprising fibers or mineral particles coated with thermosetting binders and dry UV stable pigments are applied on the whole surface and on the liquid blank ink pattern. 3. Non-bonded dry ink particles are removed with vacuum and particles bonded by the blank ink form a perfect digital pattern that corresponds to the liquid pattern printed by the digital print head. The removed dry ink particles are reused in a new print forming cycle. A high quality solid and wear resistant multi colour print may be formed. The method may also be used to position hard mineral particles such that digital embossing and digital overlays may be formed.