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IMTS 2018: A brave new world of manufacturing

By Doug Woods President, AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is coming to Chicago’s McCormick Place Sept. 10-15. With more than 2,400 exhibitors, more than 100,000 visitors and 1.3 million square feet of space, IMTS is the largest showcase of cutting edge manufacturing technology in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re involved in manufacturing, you can’t miss IMTS. The 32nd edition of IMTS will present a new era of manufacturing to the world.

People ask me what groundbreaking products, awe-inspiring exhibits and innovative technology solutions they’ll see at this edition of IMTS. I say I don’t know much more than them. Much of it is top secret.

Exhibitors keep their work under wraps as they spend months, even years, developing their innovations they intend to demonstrate at IMTS. A global audience representing 117 countries makes IMTS the perfect stage to premiere new offerings and designs.

I’m most eager to see how exhibitors are utilizing artificial intelligence, machine learning and advances in transformative technologies to improve productivity, maintenance and customer service. I expect to see companies testing the waters in new markets.

Open standards, crowd-sourcing, creative collaboration and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have led to a democratization of manufacturing that’s created a connected world of makers fearless when it comes to technology. They are pushing manufacturing to a new level.

I’ll be looking for robots of all kinds. Emerging advances in robotics have made robots more collaborative with human workers (cobots) and less reliant on factory modifications. In the mid-1980s when I started programming IBM and GM robots, you needed a complicated robot controller, an understanding of a robot controlling language and lots of time to teach yourself all the different waypoints for your operation. Now, robots work and deliver products learning and self-correcting on their own. Automation suppliers are working toward the goal of making operating a robot as intuitive as operating a smart phone.

MTConnect, now marking its 10th anniversary, will be featured more prominently at the show. The open, royalty-free standard was introduced at IMTS 2008 and provides greater interoperability between devices, sensors, controls and software applications. I expect to see it embedded in a wide range of new products. I also think we will see demonstrations of devices and systems being connected and sharing MTConnect-structured data, which will be used to drive newly developed data analytics and OEE software solutions.

Most of all, I look forward to talking with exhibitors, visitors and guests to gauge how the exponential rate of change in manufacturing technology innovation is impacting them and their businesses.

A few highlights of what to expect:

Emerging Technology Centers

The Emerging Technology Center (ETC) at IMTS has been a must-see exhibit of manufacturing innovation since it debuted in 2004. This year, IMTS will feature two ETCs focused on areas that are shaking up the manufacturing landscape: digital transformation and additive manufacturing.

Digital technologies are impacting every aspect of manufacturing. The main ETC will lay out the future in manufacturing as we see it—the building of the digital thread through the entire manufacturing process. AMT has again collaborated with some of the best government labs, technology companies and universities to piece together the core elements of this transformative digital manufacturing movement.

Additive manufacturing has expanded into all markets and has become a valuable component of many manufacturing facilities, small and large. Since the world’s first additively manufactured vehicle was built at IMTS 2014, innovations in additive have continued to headline IMTS. This year, a dedicated ETC will showcase innovations in materials and methods and offer insights into where additive manufacturing is going and growing.

Pavilions

Additive also features prominently on the show floor in a pavilion twice as large as IMTS 2016. Pavilions are geared toward specific industries, technologies and solutions to help guide attendees to booths quickly and easily. It’s like 10 shows within the IMTS show. Other pavilions include: Abrasive machining/sawing/finishing; controls & CAD/CAM; EDM; fabricating & lasers. There is a full map on IMTS.com.

Smartforce Student Summit

IMTS is not just for buyers and sellers. The next generation of makers will meet the next generation of smart manufacturing (Industry 4.0) at the Smartforce Student Summit. The summit introduces students and teachers from elementary through post-secondary schools to exciting, high-tech careers in manufacturing.

In partnership with leading education institutions and advanced technology companies, there will be hands-on challenges for students and learning labs for teachers, as well as advanced students focused on technologies like the IIoT, five-axis machining, collaborative robotics, additive manufacturing, generative design, metrology and MTConnect.

Students will also learn the workflow through the entire manufacturing process: design, 3D printing/rapid prototyping/additive manufacturing, machine and tool monitoring, automation, robotics, measurement, data acquisition and analytics and the cloud.

Conferences

Conferences are another learning opportunity at IMTS. There are several educational sessions during the week of IMTS. The largest and longest-running of these is the IMTS Conference jointly produced by AMT and GIE Media. The four-day technical deep dive features more than 70 sessions and is attended by more than 1,500 IMTS visitors.

All sessions in the IMTS Conference are presented by subject matter experts from within the IMTS exhibitor community. One-day passes are also available. There are several other important presentations held during show week, organized by leading manufacturing thought leaders covering additive, automation, lasers, top shops and more.

I invite all of you to experience the wonders of IMTS. It is the place where forward-thinking manufacturers converge to see what the future will hold for the industry. With technological change happening faster than it has ever before, it’s more important than ever for industry professionals to stay connected to the latest developments in manufacturing. There’s no better place to do that than IMTS. Don’t forget to pack your walking shoes.

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