IMTS 2014, taking place on September 8-13 in Chicago, is expected to draw a mix of big-hitting exhibitors and newcomers from across manufacturing
Attracting close to 2,000 exhibitors and 100,000-plus visitors, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is well-established as North America’s premier manufacturing technology event. With a linked Conference Programme, and a reputation as an event that focuses on future technological horizons, visitors in previous years have reported feeling both rewarded and challenged by the show.
This year’s theme at McCormick Place in Chicago is ‘Come Together: Leave Inspired’, and the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) which organises the event has decided to focus on the issue of sustainability. An Emerging Technology Centre will showcase sustainability initiatives not simply in terms of end products, but as a holistic process involving decisions made across the whole gamut of manufacturing activities.
Eye-catching projects, including a widely publicised 3D-printed vehicle to be created on the show floor, will no doubt attract public attention but the bulk of the event is closely focused on the practical needs of professional visitors who come to meet their colleagues and suppliers and to explore the range of developing technologies on offer. All the major well-known names attend the event but there will be some welcome newcomers.
New boys on the block
Bulova Technologies Machinery, a recently formed entry into the machine tool business in the US, will be using IMTS 2014 to announce its arrival on the scene and showcase the range of machinery and technologies the company can offer. Bulova’s mission is to source industrial machinery worldwide to serve the US and Canadian markets. The company will welcome colleagues from the automotive sector to booth S-9482 to watch demonstrations of its precision CNC vertical machining centres. With a product line encompassing four categories and 26 machines, Bulova can boast a strong platform from which to support the needs of North American engineering.
Technically advanced machining centres will be on display from all the main manufacturers. US distributors and agents for all the leading international brands will have booths displaying their latest offerings, with many featuring new developments and upgraded technologies. For example, Kitamura will introduce IMTS 2014 visitors to its Mycenter HX500G horizontal machining centre that offers class-leading capacity and functionality. With two spindle configurations available and a choice of taper, the machine can accommodate lighter-duty aluminium applications as well as those that require a heavier, more robust spindle for greater accuracy with other materials.
As with all manufacturers today, energy efficiency has become a key objective in the design and development of machines. Toshiba Machine will be among other leading manufacturers offering machine tools, injection-moulding machinery, die-casting equipment and system robotics. The presentation the company will make at booth S-9436 is likely to hold considerable interest for those from the automotive sector.
UK specialist Vapormatt will be going to Chicago to show off its surface cleaning, peening and finishing processes. As an originator of the pressure recirculatory wet blast process, the company has over fifty years of experience in surface preparation and finishing technologies. Vapormatt will be keen to meet US customers and have a good audience for the launch of its new Vapormatt Sabre system. The system is claimed to be especially suitable for small-to-medium sized manufacturers which require both high performance and flexibility. Offering hybrid functionality courtesy of dual X and Y-axis nozzle arrangements, the machine can accommodate round shank tools for 3-30mm diameters and 46-307mm lengths can be processed, as well as cutting inserts.
IMTS 2014 will also feature extensive displays from companies specialising in high-end measurement technologies. California-based Nanovea will bring its recently introduced N3 line to the show for scrutiny by discerning customers. The company claims a breakthrough in hardness testing technology, bringing nanoindentation capability out of the laboratory and into the broader production R&D environment. Nanovea’s products feature a high level of automation which brings the benefits of consistency and enhanced performance alongside simplicity in use.
EuroTech will show its VSM/SIKO Valve Seat Inspection System, designed to offer a complete measurement and inspection system for automotive cylinder heads. With speed of operation a key requirement, the system is nevertheless designed to be robust enough for shop floor use at high levels of accuracy. In booth W-2453, EuroTech will also display a range of other high-tech measurement, inspection workholding and tooling products which will be relevant to automotive production environments.
Other product launches scheduled for IMTS include Lang Technovation, which plans to use the event to introduce its new Eco-Compact 20 Automation System. This is supplied as a pre-adjusted, ready-to-use unit with high levels of flexibility and a long loading arm with a travel capability of up to 1200mm.
Component manufacturers on show
Alongside the suppliers of major automation and engineering machinery, IMTS offers visitors an opportunity to encounter the many component manufacturers whose products are an integral part of the engineering environment. Tapeswitch, for example, will show a full spectrum of sensing and signalling products for protection, detection and safety applications.
The new Laser Scanning machine guarding solution has easy-to-use, programmable features that allow it to be configured to deal with the full range of machinery/area protection including complex applications, where it can operate with up to 16 pattern configurations. Tapeswitch can offer custom OEM/machine-builder solutions to specification for individual applications.
Workholding devices will also inevitably feature at IMTS 2014. Innovations in this area may not attract attention in the way that other technological developments do, but they can be key to enhanced productivity and improved quality. Dillon Manufacturing will be showing its Hard Jaws product which features diamond-shaped serrations for increased pull-down effect, reducing part slippage and push back from a bar feeder. Dillon will show a wide range of workholding solutions at booth W-2134. Experienced technical staff will be available to guide potential customers to the most appropriate solutions for their particular applications.
Heule Precision Tools is another company that will use IMTS 2014 to showcase its new products – in this case, a BSF Tool System designed to cope with high-volume production of back spotfacing and counterboring. Designed for CNC machining, the new tool can offer a counter bore ratio of two-thirds diameter and is ideal for applying counter bores in areas which are difficult to access.
Drawing in new talent
For the 2014 show, IMTS is placing renewed emphasis on attracting young people to the challenges of engineering. The AMT has long championed initiatives in engineering education and IMTS has always had a reputation as a student-friendly show. This year, an outreach programme involving schools and colleges in the Chicago area has been extensively resourced and will be active in the run up to the show.
Central to these initiatives is the new Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2014, which organisers claim to be the most interactive student event in the US. The show will feature contributions from educators, employers and policymakers in an effort to improve youth awareness of the opportunities available in engineering and to provide detailed information about the skills and intellectual challenges that engineering careers afford.
Alongside the formal educational presentations, individual exhibitors will offer their contribution to skills development. Michigan-based EMAG, a premium machine tool supplier to the automotive industry, has an ongoing interest in closing the skills gap and will feature its Apprentice programme in Machine Mechatronics as part of its presentation alongside its normal product offerings.
A place for robots too
Advanced robotic systems always hold a fascination for visitors to the show. Different industrial sectors present different challenges and demands to suppliers, but automotive colleagues have long been used to exploring and adapting systems from other environments to serve their own purposes. Large yet closely focused trade shows such as IMTS provide an ideal opportunity for this cross-fertilisation of ideas to take place. Advanced aeronautics in particular has proven to be a fruitful source of new automation practices and technologies, and the increasing use of composite materials in vehicle production has made the aeronautical sector even more relevant today.
For those in the automotive sector, IMTS has always been an important event. The sheer size of the US automotive market, and its key role in the global economy, will secure IMTS 2014 a place in many decision-makers’ diaries.
IMTS 2014 will take place on September 8-13 at McCormick Place, Chicago. Click here for more information.