The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is a big event made up of many individual parts, which, themselves, are equally worth the cost of admission. The notable components of the biennial IMTS this year, Sept. 8-13 in Chicago, are the Trends in Advanced Machining, Manufacturing and Materials (TRAM) conference, the division of the show into nine product-specific pavilions, a major social media plan, and an aggressive student outreach program.
Last week's ThomasNet News article highlighted some key additions to IMTS that reinforce its position as the leading manufacturing trade show in North America and one of the biggest and most important such events in the world.
Peter Eelman, vice president of exhibitions and communications at the Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT), the show's organizer, reports that 2,000 exhibitors will occupy 1.25 million sq ft of space in McCormick Place. He forecasts that attendance will be up more than 10 percent this year from 2012, based on hotel reservations and pre-registration activity.
One important event, the TRAM conference, occurs during the middle of IMTS, on Sept. 10 and 11. The conference focuses on trends and developments in aerospace manufacturing. Aerospace is an important growth market for machining and other manufacturing processes. Machining equipment shown at IMTS 2012 included systems geared toward aerospace component production, and the aerospace industry will remain an important part of many equipment and educational presentations this time around.
IMTS is a venue where aerospace OEMs and tier-one companies learn about developments and scout for suppliers. Boeing Co., for example, is the TRAM conference's sponsor, and it is sending several of its key personnel to the event. Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Research and Technology, is the conference's keynote speaker. Also in attendance will be Ricardo Traven, chief test pilot for the Boeing F/A-18 fighter jet, and Peter Hoffman, vice president of international property management.
The conference will discuss, among other topics, advanced machining processes that fabricate complex parts for the latest aircraft structures and engines, the effectiveness and benefits of using new and developing technologies in component fabrication, and a survey of advanced materials, which include composites and titanium alloys, to produce lighter, stronger structures.
Eelman says Boeing sees the conference as an opportunity to share information with attendees about aerospace needs and a way for its engineers to learn about the technologies and equipment available in machining and other areas for product development and manufacturing. "This is as much a conference for their staff and supplier base," remarks Eelman. "Boeing needs people who know what they're doing [in component supply]."
The show floor, meanwhile, is again being divided into nine pavilions, i.e., areas of interest, which Eelman says will help attendees quickly locate equipment and services. The nine pavilions are: metal cutting; tooling and workholding systems; abrasive machining, sawing, and finishing; controls and CAD/CAM; EDM, including CNC wire equipment and die-sinking machines; fabricating, laser, and additive manufacturing; gear generation, including cutting, forming, and finishing; quality assurance; and machine components, cleaning, and environmental needs.
Supporting IMTS activities on the show floor, in conferences, and other areas will be a social media network covering Twitter feeds and updates on LinkedIn and Facebook. Returning this year will be IMTSTV, whose broadcast will include eight hours of original programming every day during the show that will be available 24/7 at terminals throughout McCormick Place, on hotel TVs, and on screens inside shuttle buses.
IMTS will, as always, include student outreach to cultivate an interest in manufacturing as a career among young people. As reports in ThomasNet News and elsewhere have stated, many manufacturers have skilled labor shortages, much of which is attributable to fewer young workers entering the business. As noted last week, automation addresses some of these shortages, but Eelman says, "We need new players as well as automation to keep the industry healthy."
One aspect of the outreach, officially called the Smartforce Student Summit, will be demonstrations of new technologies. One involves using Google Glass, the smartglasses developed by the Internet giant, as a machine monitoring aid for shop managers as they walk around plant floors. Google Glass, equipped with the right app, can display data about machine operations in much the same way such information is displayed on tablets and smartphones. One plan at IMTS is to project on a screen for student audiences what a wearer sees with the glasses.
AMT has bought two pairs of Google Glass, which it regards as an emerging technology for manufacturing. "We are throwing ideas out to our audience," Eelman says, in this case, to students who are likely to be impressed with the leading-edge possibilities of applying Google Glass to machining and other manufacturing and industrial operations.
ADDITIONAL READING: Gathering Schools Together at IMTS