IMTS 2018 Largest Show Ever

Digitization collided with a robust manufacturing industry to create the most dynamic show ever.

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A rapidly transforming industry sparked IMTS 2018 – The International Manufacturing Technology Show, to set all-time records for show metrics. The 32nd edition of the show drew a record registration of 129,415 people and featured 1,424,232 sq. ft. of exhibit space representing 2,123 booths and 2,563 exhibiting companies. IMTS 2018 ran from Sept. 10 – 15 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“Connectivity, the digital transformation of manufacturing, automation, additive manufacturing and a strong economy drove record numbers at IMTS 2018,” says Peter R. Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions & Business Development at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS. “Digitization collided with a robust manufacturing industry to create our most dynamic show ever.”

Historically, years between IMTS lead to incremental machine improvements, which are now reaching physical limits. “The velocity of change has become different,” observes Tim Shinbara – AMT Vice President – Manufacturing Technology. “Analog technology yields linear improvements. Digital technology creates exponential growth and transforms how manufacturers and job shops operate.”

Notable growth areas at IMTS 2018 included an expanded Additive Manufacturing Pavilion that featured 51 exhibitors and covered 31,550 sq. ft., the strong partnership with HANNOVER MESSE USA and its four colocated shows and 510 exhibitors.

Peter R. Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions & Business Development at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS.

“IMTS witnessed an unprecedented degree of collaboration among exhibitors to develop additive manufacturing, automation and connected systems,” says Eelman. As an example, he points to the venture between 3D Systems and GF Machining, with their DMP Factory 500 metal 3D printing system unveiled to the public on the first day of the show.

Scott Harms, founder and President of MetalQuest Unlimited, has attended IMTS since 1996. After three days at this show, he was working on quotes for a load/unload robot, a shop floor CMM with an automation package, scheduling software and smart factory technology. He is also looking at cobots.

While Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner addressed the IMTS audience, he noted that Illinois is the 17th largest manufacturing economy in the world, which generates 600,000 manufacturing jobs, produces $100 billion dollars in manufactured products and creates the “most exciting and dynamic part of prosperity for everyone.”

“The machines that you see at IMTS 2018 are moving at the speed of digital technology. They’re able to take files and make something that you’ve imagined,” says LM Industries CEO and co-founder John B. Rogers, Jr.” The tagline of IMTS 2018 says it the best, Where dreamers and doers connect.

The HANNOVER MESSE USA co-located show hosted 510 exhibitors from around the world. At the center of HANNOVER MESSE USA was the Solutions Theater, which hosted more than 60 learning sessions that dove deeply into important topics such as IIoT, intelligent manufacturing and next-generation technology.

Dell Technologies, Microsoft and SAP joined other innovators in a new Digital Factory exhibition that showcased breakthrough products and solutions focused on integrated processes and IT solutions for plant operations. The show has increased its exhibition space by 26 percent over IMTS 2016 and by more than 440 percent since its first appearance eight years ago.

“We want all visitors to be more competitive in this global world. People need to connect and collaborate,” says Dr. Jochen Koeckler, CEO of Deutsche Messe AG, HANNOVER MESSE’s parent organization.

AMT President Douglas K. Woods adds that, “HANNOVER MESSE USA and IMTS bridge the gap between Silicon Valley technology and main street manufacturing. People find technologies here that change the spaces we work in.”

With digital technology, the pace of change makes it difficult to fully grasp the possibilities. IMTS 2018 directly addressed that issue with AMT’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC) on digital transformation, which featured demonstrations of how new science impacts manufacturing.

Cisco, an IT hardware company, exhibited at IMTS for the first time, bringing its expertise in the industrial security of data and connectivity to the ETC. Visitors learned about best practices to secure their plant floor and intellectual property. Security is now a top concern and manufacturing facilities need to manage modern security with legacy operating systems.

IMTS 2018 will be noted as the year of digital transformation, as exemplified by an automated cell linking a Hurco CNC, a Universal Robot arm and Hexagon CMM using the MTConnectTM standard.

“MTConnect is the building block that enables intelligent systems and decisionmaking based on data rather than instinct,” says Eelman. “Instead of asking ‘What’s a connected system?’, visitors now say to exhibitors, ‘Your systems use MTConnect, right?’”

Paul Gray, Hurco’s R&D Manager, notes that the only required connection between machines is an Ethernet cable. “Simple connectivity and software communication overcomes a major hurdle for job shops that focus on high-mix, low-volume and even custom parts,” he says.

Additive Advances

“Additive manufacturing is one of the most revolutionary technologies ever brought to IMTS, and that’s reflected in the ETC focusing on additive manufacturing,” says Eelman.

To show its speed and versatility, Oak Ridge National Laboratory created a die-in a-day demonstration that featured four stages of development: printing the die at Lincoln Electric, machining the printed die at Mazak, molding a part from the die at IACMI and 3D laser scanning the part at Quality Vision International.

“Traditionally it takes a minimum of six weeks to make molds, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars,” said Lonnie Love, Group Leader of Automation Robotics and Manufacturing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “We demonstrated every day of the show the ability to go from digital to actual production in less than 10 hours. This technology has practical uses that manufacturers can utilize now.”

This ETC also featured a “Knowledge Bar” hosted by America Makes where visitors learned about the development of education roadmaps, an online platform for members to exchange information and establishment of industry-wide additive manufacturing (AM) standards and specifications.

Multiple companies chose IMTS 2018 as their venue to debut high-volume AM systems, including HP and EOS. Stephen Nigro, President of 3D Printing, introduced the HP Metal Jet printer. Designed for high volume production, the HP Metal Jet has 50 times more productivity than any other binder jet or laser. EOS launched the M 300-4 system, a multi laser metal 3D printing system designed for digital industrial additive manufacturing.

Perhaps more than any other technology at IMTS, AM represents the opportunity for small and start-up companies, from the U.S. and abroad, to gain exposure to a large audience and grow their dreams.

Austin Kron, Business Development Manager for first-time exhibitor BeAM Machines Inc., Strasbourg, France, believes AM will continue to generate company creation and growth as it becomes more industrialized, meeting production levels required by manufacturing. He cites one customer with certified aerospace repair job that has more than three thousand parts in flight.

“Every building in McCormick Place featured AM technology,” says Eelman. “Four years ago when we produced the Strati vehicle on the show floor, large-scale AM was a novelty. At IMTS 2018, AM technology was part of the manufacturing processes used to produce the entrance hall impact units.”

Smarter Solutions

ATHENA, the industry’s first voice-operated assistant, debuted at IMTS in the Makino and OKK booths, as well as in AMT’s ETC where visitors could control a 5-axis DMG Mori CNC.

“With 5-axis milling technology becoming more prevalent, operators need to know more to be highly productive,” says Dan Bagley, VP Marketing & Sales at iTSpeeX. “People don’t operate machines. People produce parts in a cell, and the machine is an actor in that cell. ATHENA provides intelligent assistance to machinists to allow them to operate multiple types of controls.”

Index previewed its iXworld, an online portal with four distinct service areas under a single interface. FANUC’s FIELD system, an open platform that collects machine data in real time, was connected to more than 300 machines from 144 companies at the show. SAP focused on how to use blockchain to improve trust and transparency from source to consumption. After meeting at the previous show, Infor and FORCAM collaborated to create a bi-direction interface between FORCAM’S plant floor information-gathering solution and Infor’s backend ERP solution. Fraunhofer demonstrated the first 5G network in the world, which can record data at frequencies 10 to 100 times faster than LTE.

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