The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is the place to go to see and learn everything you wanted to know about the technology behind everything manufacturing.
Once known as the machine tool show, IMTS has expanded to include all manufacturing technologies beyond classical machining. Here are 5 things I learned while attending IMTS 2016.
Extensive automation has successfully reached the machine shop.
It used to be that automation in the machine shop was just tool changing; now it goes way beyond that.
Raw material loading, part transfer between machining centers, and finished part removal are just a few concepts that many of the companies were showing, with Fanuc leading the way.
Even with the all of the advances in automation there is still a need for “simple” machining centers like end mills and manual lathes.
The world is filled with parts that are just better off being processed on simple machining centers like a knee mill, engine lathe, or punch press to name a few manual machines.
Many of these “manual” machines come with controllers that allow you to program speeds and feeds, but setup costs can be kept at a minimum compared to a larger automated machine.
Additive manufacturing graduated from simple plastic parts.
Instead of removing material to make a part, additive manufacturing uses material to build up material ─ one layer at a time. This is why, most times, it’s called 3D printing.
The technology has advanced and spread out to a point where metal and carbon fiber parts are able to be “printed.”
Even welding/welder manufacturers have developed machines where metal parts are built up using welding wire. Did anyone see that coming?
The parts are really rough, but still amazing.
Manufacturing is doing well enough to draw large crowds of potential customers.
Depending on how you want to judge success of a show, the manufacturing sector can call this one a success by the sheer number of potential customers walking the show floor.
It is very rare that people go to a show to purchase a major piece of equipment, but those people walking the aisles, in each of the halls, could be inspired to go back to the office and begin a conversation.
Another show of success for this industry was the number of primary school students, exhibitor staff with their kids, entire families, and scout troops walking through the show.
Every industry needs to have these students discover the possibilities of what they can do with their future. Hopefully, the booth personnel got passed their want of buying customers and showed these students what their products are about because they could be future customers.
The future is now.
This is clearly a cliché. However, if you take the show as a whole it should indicate to the customers walking the floor that they could have the future now.
Faster, more accurate, more efficient machines.
Automatic data collection (also known as big data) of product throughput as well as machine health (descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics).
There is still room for improvement.
The holy grail is to send a 3D electronic part file to a machining center that automatically creates the necessary tool selection and sequence, and spits a finished part out completely inspected.
In the end, the biggest thing I learned is that manufacturing is alive and well.
The statistics may say that it has stalled in recent months, but Industry 4.0 is just taking hold.
As more tech-savvy people enter the industry the faster that highly flexibilized (mass-) production will take hold.
Quicker to market, cost efficient, customizable products are what consumers are looking for today and into the future. IMTS 2016 showed a glimpse of things to come.
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