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Planning and preparation for the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) this September in Chicago has been in progress for many months, especially among exhibitors. Most of them begin to get ready for the next show as soon as the last one is finished. In fact, many were gathering ideas and taking notes for this year’s show while IMTS 2012 was still underway.
Attendees should be proactive, too, although perhaps the urgency need not be quite as intense. If you plan to attend, lining up lodging and transportation ought to be settled soon. (There are plenty of online resources for that—visit imts.com and hit the Hotel/Travel tab for the tools you need.)
Of course, thinking about how to organize the best visit to IMTS is also worthwhile right now. Consider, for example, creating one or more teams with specific assignments to explore, understand and respond to new equipment offerings and technology developments. Check out all the technical conferences, learning/training opportunities, networking events and so on (and take care of reservations and sign-ups as needed). Plan stops at the co-located shows, too. The Industrial Automation North America show, for example, offers a great opportunity to see the inner workings of the automation that drives the latest technology. Make every moment at IMTS really count by maximizing time to investigate exhibits and minimizing time to find the ones you want to visit. (You can start your show plan now with MyShow Planner at the IMTS Web address.)
I believe IMTS 2014 will be a pivotal event in U.S. manufacturing, at least in the sense that the show will be an unusually timely indicator of the shape manufacturing is in. I mean that in several senses. Considering its economic health and well-being, U.S. manufacturing is in relatively good shape. Shops and plants are generally prospering. They are investing in new equipment. They are automating. They are training and retraining. (True, hiring is still slow, although most hard-to-fill skilled positions are persistently vacant.) The strength of the U.S. market for machine tools and other manufacturing equipment makes this show of keen interest to suppliers around the world.
IMTS will show that the shape of manufacturing equipment is changing. Machine tools, for example, come in configurations and styling that is notably different and fresh. We are shaping workpieces with additive processes, subtractive processes, and both processes on the same machine. We use lasers, waterjets, ultrasonics, electrical discharges and vibrations to shape and change materials.
At IMTS, we’ll see that the control systems used to run machines are morphing into units that imitate our mobile phones, tablets and other portable devices, both in appearance and functionality. Wi-Fi capability will be the norm. That seemingly shapeless concept of computing and storing data in the cloud is shaping up to be a realm of unlimited capacity and power. The implications will be discernible at this show.
Manufacturing has played a critical role in the ongoing economic recovery of this country. IMTS 2014 can be a similar turning point in the direction manufacturing companies must take to stay on track. Likewise, this is the crucial moment to lock in your intentions to attend.
Editor PickSlideshow: Trends and Technology at IMTS 2016
The size and scope of a show like IMTS makes it impossible to cover everything of interest, but here's a taste of the technology and trends we were taking note of this year.