CHICAGO – This week’s International Manufacturing Technology Show, more commonly known as IMTS, expects record crowds, with 116,000 registered attendees and 2,500 exhibitors. At the show’s opening ceremony today there were mentions of various records being set.
That’s in contrast to auto shows, both in the U.S. and abroad. Such events in the past have been a forum for automakers to market new and redesigned models. They’ve typically featured lots of glitz. The press days ahead of the public opening were a publicity machine.
However, auto shows now are having trouble holding on to major automakers, who are looking for new ways to spotlight cars and trucks. Even the Paris Motor Show, held in one of the world’s most glamorous cities, has seen defections. The North American International Auto Show in Detroit, amid the departure of German luxury brands, is moving from January to June in 2020 to rekindle interest.
The mood is much different at IMTS, held every other year. It takes over all of McCormick Place in Chicago. Organizers say the difference is technology deployed on the factory floor.
“This really isn’t a glamour show,” said Douglas K. Woods, president of the Association for Manufacturing (AMT; McLean, VA), which organizes IMTS.
Instead, IMTS markets itself as a way to bridge the technology of Silicon Valley and Main Street manufacturing.
“It used to be the exhibitors just came to sell,” Woods said during a short interview after the opening IMTS ceremony.
Now, he added, attendees are looking to see how technology advances in machine tools, robots and 3D printing can solve production concerns and issues.
“There are so many things you have to see, feel and touch,” Woods said.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has increased its presence at IMTS. This year, HP Inc. is introducing a new 3D printing technology it calls HP Metal Jet, intended to print steel for mass production.
Additive manufacturing “wants to be connected to other manufacturing solutions,” Woods said.
To be sure, exhibitors do book orders at IMTS. In that regard, IMTS is more like an air show, where aircraft makers record sales.
Still, IMTS is a reminder of increasing tech at factories. Plants are now the home of “connected” machines feeding data to operators minding every more sophisticated production equipment.
“Technology is being immersed in manufacturing,” Woods said during the show’s opening ceremony. “We can’t find the skilled workers. We need the technology to fill in some of” the gaps.