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The Showstopper Was Us: Manufacturing Community Reconnects at IMTS 2022

With handshakes, hugs, high-fives, and hearty backslaps as people greeted each other after four years apart, the connectedness of the manufacturing community was the literal showstopper at IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show.
Sep 21, 2022

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  • Renewal of friendships, collaborations, partnerships, and networking opportunities created a new level of excitement at IMTS 2022 for 86,307 registrants.

  • Technologies are accessible, inclusive, and ready to implement tomorrow.

  • Four years of technology advancements focused heavily on addressing workforce shortages and supply chain issues.

McLean, Va. (September 21, 2022) – With handshakes, hugs, high-fives, and hearty backslaps as people greeted each other after four years apart, the connectedness of the manufacturing community was the literal showstopper at IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show. Held from Sept. 12-17 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, IMTS 2022 achieved a total registration of 86,307, including 11,715 students, and featured 1,212,806 million square feet of exhibit space representing 1,816 exhibitors and 1,603 booths. The North American visitor-to-exhibitor ratio increased by more than 10% compared to 2018’s record-breaking show, reaffirming the need to meet in person.

“While the excitement and electricity were clearly evident in every aisle of the show, what was most gratifying for the industry and the country was the scope of commerce taking place as visitors sought out, and found, key technologies and productivity solutions to move their businesses forward,” says Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS.

“At IMTS 2022, the manufacturing community achieved something that hasn’t been done since World War II: it brought our industry back together after a worldwide disruption. We proved our resiliency, but we achieved much more,” adds Peter R. Eelman, chief experience officer at AMT. “The digital technologies and other new products at this show aren’t just advanced: they are accessible, inclusive, and ready to be implemented by small and medium-sized businesses regardless of their workforce composition.”

The show attracted 7,647 people to its educational and networking events. The IMTS Women Make Manufacturing Move specialty program attracted more than 1,213 people, representing 400 companies and 52 countries, to its three events. Three IMTS Job Shops specialty programs attracted 293 people and covered topics such as taking shops digital, the Top Shops award winners, and the Top Shops benchmarking program, presented by AMT, Modern Machine Shop magazine, and Additive Manufacturing magazine by Gardner Business Media.

The inaugural IMTS Investor Forum, powered by AMT, featured curated tours on additive manufacturing, digital technology, machining, and automation and was designed to help the investment community understand the opportunities in manufacturing. Presenter David Burns, principal and founder at Global Business Advisory Services, notes, “With the number of innovative products hitting the market now – cutting across the entire swath of automation and digital technologies that change the way we manufacture parts – we’re in a period of time that will not be paralleled again for decades.” Burns points out that manufacturing technology orders per sale continued to increase from 2019 through 2022 and that they will continue to accelerate as companies use technology to compensate for a smaller labor force.

The AM4U Area, presented by Formnext, a new venue for IMTS, featured well-attended daily presentations such as a panel of nine additive manufacturing experts discussing the benefits and drawbacks of various AM technologies. Formnext is the leading industry expo platform for additive manufacturing and industrial 3D printing.

AMT and Gardner Business Media have collaborated with Mesago, the organizers of Formnext, and Messe Frankfurt Inc. to launch Formnext Forum Austin (Aug. 28-30, 2023), the Formnext Forum co-located at IMTS 2024, and Formnext Chicago (April 8-10, 2025) at McCormick Place.

“We hosted several successful conferences at IMTS 2022,” says Allison Kline Miller, chief events officer, Gardner Business Media. “The Additive Manufacturing Conference at IMTS 2022 featured the kind of quality technical content our attendees have come to expect. It served as a perfect launching point as the AM Conference evolves into Formnext Forum Austin next August. Modern Machine Shop was thrilled to bring its Top Shops program to IMTS. Our annual benchmarking program (see award winners video from the IMTS+ Main Stage) helps job shops better understand how their peers are implementing best manufacturing processes and business practices to make their shops more successful.”

“After a four-year gap due to the pandemic, we were happy to bring back HANNOVER MESSE USA as a co-located show with IMTS 2022,” says Ed Nichols, CEO of Hannover Fairs USA. The show is a leading knowledge and networking event focused on Industry 4.0, AI, robotics, automation technology, logistics IT, and industrial software. “While personal emotion is not commonly associated with trade shows, this year really reinforced how much exhibitors and attendees appreciated reconnecting. Everyone expressed gratitude and grace for their support in coming to HANNOVER MESSE USA and IMTS."

Connections

“You could talk about automation, hardware, and software, but the biggest buzz at IMTS 2022 is the humans – we’re here,” says Jason Zenger, president of ZENGERS Industrial Supply and co-host of the “MakingChips” podcast, which broadcast from the IMTS+ Main Stage. “Every couple of minutes, I run into somebody I know or make a connection that is going to be a great resource. IMTS is the epitome of the manufacturing community coming together to build the future.”

“The opportunity in manufacturing is for all of us,” says Andrew Crowe, founder of the New American Manufacturing Renaissance. “The collaborations have been crazy positive. This show is historic, and people are going to point to IMTS 2022 as a catalyst. It’s been amazing to see the people we’ve been talking to online and realize how important the human ecosystem is.”

Kristina Schulz and Markus Schulz, CEOs at Frantzen Discomatic, Remscheid, Germany, agree, saying, “We came to Chicago in order to meet all our U.S. customers, both European and North American, in one spot – in one hall, actually. Here we can network with all the people we cannot meet with on a daily basis.” The company makes high-quality grinding discs and works with companies in the Gear Generation, Abrasive Machining/Sawing/Finishing, and Fabrication & Lasers pavilions.

“I was always optimistic about the show because people want to hold the product, but it exceeded my expectations,” says Michael Larson, marketing director, Hainbuch America, Germantown, Wisconsin. “Even though IMTS 2018 was a record year for visitors, we beat our previous record for qualified leads by the third day of IMTS 2022. People came in with a different mindset, a different purpose. They didn’t just ask what’s new; they came in looking for solutions for specific problems.”

Automation

After the human connection, IMTS 2022 will be remembered as the show of a thousand robots. Exhibitors integrated robots, cobots, and other automated functions to machining centers, welding systems, tooling centers, workholding pallets, inspection systems, and more.

“The automation systems at IMTS focused on ease-of-deployment, iPhone-level programming simplicity, and affordability for small and medium-sized businesses,” says Tim Shinbara, chief technology officer at AMT. “Visitors could find new startup automation companies and spinoffs in every hall, and every one of them introduced solutions for high-mix, low-volume applications to help job shops address their workforce and productivity issues.”

“I didn’t go to school for robotics. I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree, and I just kind of hopped right in,” says Jordan Olsen, an automation engineer with B&B Manufacturing in LaPorte, Indiana. “We’re a small manufacturer [of gearing and synchronous power transmission products,] and we’re just getting into automation. We purchased our third robot at the show, a FANUC R-2000, and we’re looking at [FANUC CRX] cobots to figure out what would work best for our next cells.”

“Apparently, you don’t have to have any welding experience,” says Christopher Digangi, general manager and CNC manager at West Palm Machining and Welding, West Palm Beach, Florida, after a demonstration of Trumpf’s TruArc Weld 1000 MIG welding cell equipped with a universal robot.

Automation solutions at IMTS 2022 also combined the flexibility of a collaborative robot (cobot) with an autonomous vehicle that can drive around a shop and tend multiple machines without human intervention. Two exhibitors had eye-catching demonstrations of this technology. Staubli Robotics introduced the new HelMo mobile robot system, equipped with multi couplings, a tool-changing system, and a tool station. Nachi Robotic Systems demonstrated a CZ10 cobot arm mounted on an EffiBOT autonomous mobile robot simulating machine tending work.

John Mayer, USA director of operations for Preci Dip USA, a Swiss-based producer of interconnect components that is expanding its operations near Savannah, Georgia, says, “I’m looking at automated solutions so we could run lights-out.”

Eric Sun, owner of Orange Vise Company in Placentia, California, was intrigued by the Zoller roboBox, which automates tool management, including storing all the tool measurement data. “This roboBox really caught my attention because it automatically changes end mills inside of shrink fit holders. To us, it is a huge leap forward because tool life is generally what bottlenecks horizontal machine centers. We’re very lean, and this type of technology kind of shows how we’re moving forward in the right track.”

“Even though there's a lot of uncertainty in the economy right now, the pressure on labor is not letting up,” adds Joe Campbell, senior manager, strategic marketing and applications development at Universal Robots. “Shops have an immediate problem to solve today, not six months from now.”

Motivating Technical Education and Careers

Working closely with exhibitor partners, the Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2022 presented 24,000 square feet of interactive experiences, its largest floorplan to date, with technology and dozens of education-to-career pathways on display.

“For the younger students who attended the Summit, we believe that we expanded on the IMTS ‘Find Me’ campaign, as we showed these students how they could find themselves and provide them choices in the education-to-career pathway that they might not have considered,” says Greg Jones, vice president, Smartforce Development, AMT. “Our focus is always on presenting our industry’s vision of the manufacturing technology classroom of the future. This year, we added Smartforce Careers Connections, a kind of digital career fair that allowed college students who are nearing graduation to connect to hundreds of open jobs at manufacturing technology companies.”  

One of those students was Saylor White, who wanted to visit IMTS with her father as a very special 10th birthday present for her. Father Todd White operates Todd White Metal Works, a small shop in Glendale, Arizona. Todd has introduced Saylor to the basics of shop safety, reading blueprints, and loading, running, and unloading parts.

“Machining is cool because parts come from nothing, and then they go into something as a finished part,” says Saylor. “My favorite part of the show was the student area. You can only look at machines on the show floor, but here in the Student Summit, you can actually touch them. That can bring more kids into machining.”

Students from Penn High School in Mishawaka, Indiana, ran a booth about their FIRST Robotics program in the Smartforce Student Summit. Teacher and team coach Kyle Marsh stayed behind the scenes to let students do all the talking about designing and building their competition robot.

“It was cool to just sit back and watch the kids interact at the booth and really shine,” Marsh says. “Plus, they walked around the other pavilions to get new ideas to try in our shop. It really threw gas on the fire of their curiosity. Coming to this show has reinforced real empowerment for the students and given me the ability to stay cutting edge on technology.”

Special Attractions

The IMTS+ Main Stage featured full programming every day of the show. Highlights included a conversation with Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, and Tim Shinbara, CTO at AMT. One topic they explored was the recent government investment in the semiconductor industry, its implications for the private sector, and its connection to the IMTS Investor Forum.

“I’m delighted to see the investment community stepping up to the plate,” says Humpton. “Because while we face disruption in Europe due to energy, and while we face disruption in Asia due to the pandemic, we in the U.S. have relative health [… and] energy security. Now is a time when builders in America can get going. We’ve got makers all across the country ready to bring manufacturing back close to the source of demand, and we [Siemens] stand ready with the technology to do it.”

Siemens also collaborated with IMTS exhibitor Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. on some of the exhibits in AMT’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC). The ETC featured a scaled section of the Rosenberg Space Habitat and live demonstrations of the robotic 3D printing technology used to make the habitat.

Ingersoll CEO Dr. Jeffrey Ahrstrom elaborates on advanced manufacturing and the future of space exploration during a presentation from the IMTS+ Main Stage, saying, “Space explorers can’t bring everything necessary to colonize space. This demands that we develop a space manufacturing economy. As you walk around the show, the presence of additive manufacturing is significant. No longer the stuff of research labs, it is mainstream and driving active change throughout the capital equipment industry. Who could have conceived of printing space thermoplastic habitats or metal tank hulls, and we are doing this today!”

Other keynote presentations from the IMTS+ Main Stage included:

  • The Monday opening ceremony with Douglas K. Woods, president of AMT, and Dr. Jochen Koeckler, chairman of the managing board of Deutsche Messe AG, Hannover, Germany.

  • A Tuesday presentation with Stephen Hooper, vice president of design and manufacturing at Autodesk.

  • Thursday, Eric Foellmer, vice president of marketing at Boston Dynamics, focused on use cases for quadruped robot technologies, including dynamic sensing for autonomous inspection. Spot, the agile mobile robot, came for a visit and was an IMTS showstopper.

  • The Manufacturing USA network keynote speakers included Dr. Diana Bauer, acting deputy director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy; Mike Molnar, founding director of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office; John Wilczynski, executive director at America Makes.

“Our message here is that this is an exciting time to be in manufacturing,” says Molnar. “We are in the fourth industrial revolution with the digitalization, the democratization of manufacturing. The message that you may hear from some economists is that automation is taking away jobs. That is not the case. Automation increases productivity, so that companies grow, thrive, and actually, on average, add more employment.”

In the future, we were promised Jet Suits, and Richard Browning, manufacturer, technologist, and founder of Gravity Industries, delivered. Browning made three flights (see video) in his patented Jet Suit in front of McCormick Place. The suit uses many 3D printed components, yet Browning remains impressed with the 3D printed exotic alloy components in the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion, as well as scaling of large additive components, as demonstrated in the ETC.

Videos from the IMTS+ Main Stage events are being uploaded to the IMTS+ website for future viewing.

Plan To Implement

AMT’s Eelman advises IMTS registrants that the show doesn’t end when they go home.

“It’s easy to get mesmerized and overwhelmed by all the great exhibits. As soon as you can, write down the products, technologies, and companies that really caught your eye,” he says. “Use the IMTS.com website, directories, floor plans, the MyShow Planner, and other IMTS tools we give you. Lastly, focus on the last word of this year’s show theme: ‘Digital Manufacturing. Implemented.’ Every corner of IMTS 2022 had advanced technology that was ready to implement and was within immediate financial reach for shops of all sizes. You can literally start improving productivity and profitability tomorrow.”

IMTS 2024 will take place Sept. 9-14, 2024, at McCormick Place, Chicago, so mark your calendar. In the meantime, more news, photos, and videos from IMTS 2022 will continue to be posted on IMTS.com. You can stay even more connected at IMTS+, our multimedia content destination.

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Caption: Renewal of friendships, collaborations, partnerships, networking opportunities – and more easy-to-deploy robots than you can imagine – created a new level of excitement at IMTS 2022 for 86,307 registrants. 


Links:

IMTS.com and AMTonline.org

LinkedIn: IMTS Chicago

Twitter: #IMTS2022

Facebook: facebook.com/IMTS.show

IMTS YouTube Channel: youtube.com/c/IMTSTV

IMTS – International Manufacturing Technology Show – The largest and longest-running manufacturing technology trade show in the United States is held every other year at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. IMTS 2024 will run Sept. 9-14. AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS,represents and promotes U.S.-based manufacturing technology and its members – those who design, build, sell, and service the continuously evolving technology that lies at the heart of manufacturing.

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Author
Bonnie Gurney
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
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