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Explore the future of manufacturing under one roof

Five of the top specialist industrial shows in the United States will be hosted together with the 31st edition of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). IMTS 2016 will be held from September 12th to the 17th at McCormick Place in Chicago. Held every two years, it is one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world, featuring more than 2,000 exhibitors on over 1.3 million sq. ft. of exhibition space.

Over 114,000 registrants attend the show. IMTS has teamed up with Hanover Fairs, USA (the U.S. subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Messe) since 2012 to co-locate shows that will run concurrently with IMTS.

For IMTS 2016 there are five shows: Industrial Automation North America; Motion, Drive & Automation North America; Surface Technology North America; ComVac North America and Industrial Supply North America. A single registration provides access to all five shows. “For European manufacturers that want to gain a competitive edge in 2016, attending IMTS will enable them to discover the latest technology innovations,” says Douglas Woods, President of AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and manages IMTS. IMTS itself consists of 10 sector-specific pavilions: Abrasive Machining/Sawing/Finishing; Additive Manufacturing; Controls & CAD-CAM; EDM; Gear Generation; Machine Components/ Cleaning/Environmental; Metal Cutting; Fabricating & Lasers; Quality Assurance and Tooling; and Workholding Systems.

A “MyShow Planner” tool, available at, assists visitors to plan their visits and to set up appointments with exhibitors. Must-visit Destination AMT’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC) is the foremost “must-visit” location at IMTS, as it is world-renowned for showcasing state-of-the-art and disruptive technologies.

Exhibits this year include:

• An “additive bionic human” showing additive manufactured medical implants and body parts

• The AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy) project from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) demonstrates rapid innovation through additive manufacturing to connect a natural gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle to a high-performance building that produces, consumes and stores renewable energy

• ORNL’s additive manufactured printed Shelby Cobra sports car and army Jeep replicas

“This year additive manufacturing has earned a stand-alone spot as the tenth pavilion in the show”, says Peter R. Eelman, VP – Exhibitions & Business Development, AMT. “Additive manufacturing is a reality for the industrial marketplace. It’s not fully mature, but the technology has progressed far enough that if you’re ignoring 3D printing at IMTS 2016, you’re making a big mistake,” advises David Burns, founder and principal of Global Business Advisory Services, LLC. Another pavilion expected to attract great interest is the EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) pavilion. Thanks to the growing demand for micro components produced by high-precision EDM technology, EDM work is returning to United States. “The American machinist has higher expectations for quality, accuracy and productivity, and that attracts customers to the US market,” says Gisbert Ledvon, Director of Business Development, GF Manufacturing Solutions. An App for Staying Current One of the biggest challenges manufactures face is staying current with new technology.

IMTS enables visitors to evaluate potential partners in person. Exhibitors bring their entire team to the show, so visitors can gauge their strengths and weakness at all levels, ask hard questions face-to-face and then walk down the aisle to evaluate another technology provider. In order to help manufacturers keep abreast with daily developments, AMT will unveil the first iteration of a new app that tracks and provides users with the latest technology advancements in research. “Tech Trends debuts as an information piece in AMT’s ETC, and visitors can test the pre-production versions in the AMT Experience,” says Eelman. (Editor’s note: AI obtained this information as breaking news. The app will be available Q2, 2017 through AMT’s online business intelligence tool MTInsight.) More traditionally, the 2016 edition of the IMTS 2016 Conference will feature nearly 70 individual educational sessions.

This year’s conference focuses on five tracks:

• Process Innovations: New Materials; R&D; Composites; Tooling/Workholding; General Cutting; Grinding

• Alternative Manufacturing: Additive/3D Printing; EDM; Waterjet; Laser; Fastening/Joining; Welding

• Plant Operations: Energy Efficiency; Lean Manufacturing; Cost Justification; Training/Workforce; Government Initiatives; Lifecycle Management

• Automation: CAD/CAM; Connectivity; Motion Control; Robotics; Software; Vision Systems

• Quality: Measurement; Testing; Inspection; Standards; Optical/3D “These 55-minute long seminars provide opportunities to stay on the leading edge of technology, a core mission of IMTS,” says Eelman.

“Presentations from thought leaders in many different disciplines inspire new ways to transform your business, whether that’s learning how to implement Industry 4.0 practices or improve results in a specific work cell.” In addition to the IMTS 2016 Conference, eight educational conferences will be held that focus on specific technologies, such as Additive Manufacturing, EOS North American User Day, Fluid Power, Industrial Laser, Integrated Industries, Global Automation & Manufacturing Summit, OPC Foundation and TRAM Aerospace.

Digital Revolution Continues Machining centers and their peripherals traditionally garner the lion’s share of the attention at IMTS. However, the technology trend to watch is how machines of all types integrate the physical and digital worlds. “The Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) – often called Industry 4.0 in Europe – is poised to transform manufacturing productivity on a scale that we haven’t seen since the CNC revolution. Big data will be big news as companies showcase how they can gather, transmit, analyze and leverage information,” says Eelman. AMT has played an important role in fostering digital manufacturing through the launch of MTConnect®, an open software protocol that enables manufacturing equipment to provide data in structured XML rather than proprietary formats. The concept began as a result of lectures presented at AMT’s annual meeting, and it moved forward, in part, because AMT funded research and development at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Woods what has changed in the US manufacturing sector since the last edition of IMTS.

Woods: We are seeing a strong upswing in the evolution of digital manufacturing and smart factories. The melding of hardware with software in manufacturing is more pronounced than it was even two years ago. Thanks to communications standards such as MTConnect, everything on the floor is connected, generating vast amounts of real-time data. This “Big Data” is often referred to as the “engine of innovation”, and manufacturers are becoming keenly aware of the opportunities that lie within analyzing and leveraging it. Technology trends such as machine learning, predictive maintenance, virtual prototyping, computer-aided engineering, and the use of virtual reality on the shop floor depend on data to increase efficiency and productivity and to improve their products and customer experiences.

AI: How strong is the trend among manufacturers to “inshore” their production?

Woods: Consumers around the world expect quick delivery of products with customized features and designs plus 24-hour service. Companies can get the flexibility and agility they need to meet this demand when they manufacture close to where their products are consumed – and that can be anywhere in the world. Fortunately, the United States has a large consumer base eager for high-tech products and services, as well as goods like cars, airplanes and appliances. According to the Commerce Department, foreign direct investment hit an all-time high in 2015, more than double the 2014 figure. Manufacturing accounted for the largest piece of that pie.

AI: What do you think is the reason for this trend and do you see it continuing?

Woods: First, we are the epicenter for digital and information technologies – pivotal to our industry. We have a strong education system and an entrepreneurial, innovative culture that has been the birthplace of many new technologies. And, compared to much of the world, we have a good infrastructure for industry and a highly productive workforce. These factors ensure that companies will continue manufacturing in the United States. One note of caution: Unless our government soon takes action to address our uncertain business climate and level the global playing field – including reforming our tax code, reining in excessive regulation and making inroads on trade – the factors working in our favor will be diminished. 

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