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It's Show Time!

Steve Plumb
By Steve Plumb Senior Editor, SME Media

The wait is almost over. After four years, IMTS is returning to an in-person show at Chicago’s massive McCormick Place. The anticipation, while not quite palpable, is significant—and growing —after COVID-19 turned IMTS 2020 into a digital-only format.

That wasn’t the first time world events impacted IMTS and its predecessors. A little history: The show’s origins date back to September 1927, when the National Machine Tool Builders’ Exposition was held in Cleveland. Some 12,000 people attended the event, which featured the latest advances in industrial machinery. By most accounts, it was deemed a great success. In fact, the follow-up in 1929 (Sept 30-Oct. 4) drew more than twice as many people.

But within a few weeks of the show’s end, Wall Street crashed and the Great Depression had begun. Needless to say, business wasn’t booming and the next show was postponed twice before reemerging in 1935, when it was heralded by the National Machine Builders’ Association (now AMT) as “the largest single-industry exposition ever held anywhere.” Noting that the show was planned during a time of doubt and uncertainty, the organizers took pride in persevering and vowed to return in four years.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The 1939 show was canceled within weeks of its scheduled opening at the start of World War II, and didn’t return until 1947 with a move to Chicago. Starting in 1955, the show was held every five years until the current biennial format was adopted in 1970. In 1990 the name was changed to the International Manufacturing Technology Show, or IMTS, to better reflect its global presence and incorporate a broader product scope, including welding, lubrication, and materials engineering.

The point is that the show has continually evolved and grown. Nearly 1,300 exhibitors are expected for IMTS 2022 (Sept. 12-17), covering 1.3 million net sq-ft of show floor. Attendees will travel from about 120 countries.

What brings people back? Peter Eelman, chief experience officer at AMT, attributed the show’s resilience to the opportunity it provides for both attendees and exhibitors. “Visitors come to IMTS 2022 because they can find solutions for every step of their manufacturing process,” Eelman said, while exhibitors “are coming with new machines, technologies, and strategies for making parts more efficient and more accurate.”

For others, it’s a sense of community, meeting customers and simply showing off. Russell Riddiford, president of Wixom, Mich.-based Anca Inc., summarized it this way: “With a long four-year wait since the last IMTS, I am excited to show our visitors the latest technological advancements from Anca.”

SME, whose own history dates back to 1932, will once again have a major presence at IMTS (see page 77), including extensive pre-show coverage in this issue of the magazine. We look forward to seeing you on the show floor!

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