IMTS displays the dimensions of manufacturing
More than 114,000 people attended the six-day IMTS Show in Chicago in September, a 14% increase from 2012.
As the record crowds at the 2014 IMTS Show at McCormick Place in Chicago made their way to the 1.3 million sq. ft. of exhibit space, they had to pass the Local Motors display where young engineers were painstakingly assembling a car made completely from 3D printed parts. The car was driven off the show grounds on Sept. 13, five days after the show began, bringing to a close another growth year for North America’s largest manufacturing trade event.
More than 114,000 people attended the biannual IMTS event, a nearly 14% increase over 2012 and 42% more than 2010. That’s an indication of both the health of the show, and of manufacturing sector as a whole. Attendees came to IMTS not just with a sense of optimism, but with cash to spend to help expand their operations.
“During IMTS 2014 there was a universal vibe among exhibitors, visitors and even students, that manufacturing is now the place to be,” said Peter Eelman, vice president of exhibitions and communications for the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), which is the lead organizer for IMTS, “Media from all over the world covering the first-ever 3D printed car build created this one-of-a-kind feel, and the entire community was caught up in the excitement. Even more exciting to exhibitors was the fact that customers came with buying intentions and a confidence that has not been seen in the manufacturing industry in many years.”
“We are ecstatic about the results we are seeing. We had a really good show in 2012 and this was even better,” said Kevin Shults, director of marketing for Hydromat. “We sold a $1 million plus twin spindle machining center during the show and left with a large number of quality leads to carry us into 2015. The community really came together in a big way.”
Spending is on the rise
That enthusiasm for investment was reflected in the keynote address at the 2014 Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit, sponsored by Plant Engineering and Control Engineering and held in conjunction with the 2014 Industrial Automation North America (IANA) pavilion, sponsored by Hannover Fairs USA.
In her presentation, McGladrey LLC partner Karen Kurek discussed the results of the 2014 McGladrey Monitor. Among its key finding is that thriving companies invest in technologies more than companies that are holding their own, and than those in decline.
Among the key findings: 36% of those describing themselves as thriving invested more in information technology, machinery, equipment, and R&D than those companies "holding their own," or in decline. Thriving companies also are looking at mergers and acquisitions, continuous improvement in processes, focus on supply chain, and they regulation and compliance better than others.
Kurek said the overall manufacturing outlook remains strong, with U.S. manufacturing leading the world in overall productivity.
This was the second time the IANA conference had been co-located with IMJTS, and this year, Hannover Fairs added the Motion Drives and Automation (MDA) pavilion at IMTS. Plans are to expand both spaces as part of the 2016 event. “Our two co-located trade shows highlighted the latest automation and motion drive technologies and trends. Many exhibitors across the show floor mentioned the noticeable increase in attendance, as well as attendee excitement about investing in the new technologies showcased specifically across our co-located events,” said Hannover Fairs USA president Larry Turner. “We appreciate the coordination between the AMT and our team as the relationship between our two firms continues to strengthen.”
3D opportunities and threats
When Jay Rogers, CEO and co-foudner of Local Motors and AMT president and CEO Doug Woods drove the finished 3D printed car, called “Strati,” off the show floor, it was the end of a 44-hour process that fused carbon-fiber reinforced polymer into an electric car that can reach a top speed of 40 mph. Unlike the 20,000 parts in a regular car, Strati has just 40 parts.
But while 3D printing has captured the attention of both the manufacturing industry and the general public, significant issues remain before the technology will be widely adopted. That was the view of Alex Chausovsky, manager and principle analyst at IHS motor driven equipment division.
At a presentation at IMTS on Sept. 8, Chausovsky noted the technology just now is maturing. He said it presents both opportunities and threats to traditional machine tools manufacturing industry. Because engineers will be able to create a CAD model and have the part in their hands by next day, 3D printing speeds time to create prototypes, and ultimately time to market while saving development costs and reducing material wastes.
There are still challenges and limitations for 3D printing technology such as intellectual property concerns, environmental impact, its effect on traditional manufacturing job market, high costs, extremely slow speed and size limitations. Another critical challenge is the establishment of codes and standards for 3D printing, which "will be an extremely long and slowly progressing process," Chausovsky said.
"3D printing is exploding. Companies related to additive manufacturing technology, no matter how big or small they are, need to think about the impact it has. (Looking) 5 to 10 years into the future, our kids will be growing up with 3D printing technology," said Chausovsky.
New use for composites
Both through 3D printing and through traditional manufacturing methods, composite materials have grown rapidly and are being used widely in commercial and military applications.
The use of composites was the topic of the TRAM Aerospace Conference at IMTS keynote from Dr. Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager for Boeing Research & Technology. Hyslop said Boeing is among a number of manufacturers looking at composites in a wide variety of aerospace applications that have applications elsewhere. He cited Boeing’s partnership with sports equipment manufacturer Russell Athletic that used excess carbon fiber to manufacture football shoulder pads that are 10% lighter, but are stronger and more durable.
"For years, manufacturing was frowned upon and dismissed, but the recent economic revival as well as the technology changes has changed things," Hyslop said. "There is a manufacturing renaissance happening, and I believe manufacturing will be taking the lead in product development."
Students, STEM, and the global economy
In order for that to take place, manufacturing will need more workers, and the current manufacturing skills gap was another significant topic at IMTS.
At the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS, Dr. Vince Bertram, president of Project Lead the Way, said there are two key issues in America’s school system today: Too many people have low expectations for the students and students have low expectations of themselves.
The STEM industry is a growing industry. Where there are 20 million people in America unemployed or underemployed; the unemployment rate in STEM is half the general U.S. unemployment rate. The major problem that the manufacturing jobs face is having one generation go into retirement and not have enough people trained to replace them. As technology is constantly changing, the key to job security is acquiring the job skills to be able to keep up with the global economy and constant innovation.
Learning to collaborate, solve problems and think critically are the skills that the new generation will need to keep up the constantly changing technology. By debunking the myth that one needs a 4 year bachelors degree to find a job, Bertram told the 150 students at an IMTS session Sept. 8 that a two-year education and a technical degree could be "a better return on your investment."
Former NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence knows too well about how to turn a childhood dream into a lifetime career. Lawrence spoke on the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2014. She pointed out the importance of exposing students to STEM career opportunities while they are still in school. "We need to make the connections between the seemingly boring science textbooks with the amazing job opportunities in the manufacturing industry and guide our next generation to map the future."
Lawrence pointed out the "leak" in the STEM education pipeline: while 70% of 4th grade students say that they love math and science; however, the passion wanes as they grow older. Only 21% of 8th grade students say that they want to pursue STEM careers.
To fix the problem, Lawrence suggests showing students the stories of successful professionals and dispel the stereotypes that STEM careers are hard, boring, and usually held by men. "Scientists and engineers don’t have green eyes and two heads, they look just like us, you and me, and their jobs are not boring. In fact, their jobs are darn fun and amazing," said Lawrence. She then showed the stories of a wood chemist, an amusement park design engineer, a robotic engineer that made robots react to surprises, and of course, her own story of becoming one of the early female astronauts.
During a special program for Chicago-area school superintendents, the Gene Haas Foundation announced $50,000 in scholarships to be awarded to high school seniors pursuing a degree in a post-secondary machining, manufacturing technology or engineering program whose curriculum includes CNC machine technology training. A $1,000 grant per school will be awarded. Seniors graduating from high school this school year will be eligible.
Another Chicago manufacturing school benefited from the first Miles for Manufacturing 5K run/walk hosted by IMTS and GIE Media.
More than $15,000 was raised and donated to the Austin Polytechnical Academy, a college and career prep high school with a focus on manufacturing and engineering located on Chicago’s West Side. Austin Polytech was founded by the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council in 2007 to educate the next generation of leaders in advanced manufacturing. Students learn about careers in all aspects of the industry, from skilled production and engineering to management and company ownership.
ISO standard used to improve machining efficiency
Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems have provided a challenge for machining processes because there isn’t a simple way for end-users to communicate high-level process information from different CAM systems to cutter manufacturers. Presenters Jim Kosmala from Okuma and David Odendahl from Boeing explained how STEP-NC at the TRAM Aerospace Conference at IMTS 2014, can be used to improve communication between end-users and cutter manufacturers.
STEP-NC is an ISO standard (ISO 10303-2381 and ISO 14649) that can be used to communicate machining process info between end-users and cutter manufacturers from different CAM systems from different companies in a more synchronized, streamlined process. With STEP-NC, end-users can transfer data between a CAD/CAM to a CNC or a CAD/CAM to a CAD/CAM. This is especially useful, Kosmala said, given technology’s prevalence on a day-by-day basis.
IMTS planning for 2016
The rapid growth of IMTS in the past four years parallels the expansion of the show from a traditional machine tool event to a broader-based manufacturing technology event. Show organizers and partners expect that growth to continue.
“Plans are already underway for IMTS 2016,” said Eelman. “Most exciting is expansion of exhibit and Smartforce Student Summit space at the McCormick Place facility which promises to make IMTS 2016 perhaps the largest in history.”
Edited by Bob Vavra, CFE Media. Mark Hoske, Chris Vavra, Anisa Samarxhiu, Joy Chang and press reports contributed to this article.