Edge banding is a thin strip of plastic or wood that is glued on to the sides of plywood to cover up the laminations. It can be used to cover the End Grain of hardwood, but this isn't seen as often and won't be structurally sound as wood expands and contracts. Edge banding can be cut from real wood in the shop or purchased in large rolls with a pre glued back. An iron is then used to press the edge banding onto the wood. The heat from the iron reactivates the glue and affixes it to the wood.
True grain continuity is hard to achieve with edge banding. The way the grain runs over from the face of the wood, to the edges or endgrain is consistent in hardwood. The grain won't line up with an edgebanded surface. It also has a tendency to chip and peel off over time, leaving an ugly surface with glue. I always think of library tables from school, the ends chipped. Someone sitting there picking at it, making it worse.
Not to be confused with a face frame or frame. A face frame is a thicker piece of hardwood that is affixed to a plywood cabinet face. It adds rigidity to the structure and is much more durable. Ill cover this in a future post.