IMTS USA: A showcase for emerging technologies, automation and data-driven manufacturing

Editor: Barbara Schulz

America's largest industrial trade show, IMTS, is currently taking place in Chicago, occupying around 120,000 m² of exhibit space, featuring more than 2,000 exhibiting companies. The ETMM team was there and was impressed.

Skyline of Chicago, Millennium Park – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city.
Skyline of Chicago, Millennium Park – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city.
(Source: Schulz)

IMTS is a showcase of what's new and what's next - in additive, automation, robotics and the digital factory. While the show is of course still focused on material removal technology, workholding and tooling, things like software, additive manufacturing, data driven manufacturing and automation are playing an increasingly important role, which can be witnessed on nearly every booth.

I had the chance to visit IMTS on Monday and was impressed by the vast range of advanced technology on show. Especially in the area of additive manufacturing there were many new developments to see. The industrialisation of the technology which was once restricted to prototyping is progressing at a rapid pace. Stratasys, for instance, had a fully automated, scalable additive manufacturing cell on show, while 3D Systems was showcasing its Figure 4 technology. Now with automatic, in-line 3D inspection, 3D Systems’ Figure 4 technology enables ultra-fast, modular Stereolithography (SLA) for the closed-loop manufacturing of plastic parts on the factory floor.

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There was also a lot to explore for tool and mould makers, where low volume and high mix production dominates the factories; but here, too, automation is increasingly integrated into the production chain.

Among others, Makino had a mould/die cell on display, featuring a sinker EDM, a five-axis machining centre and an Erowa Robot ERC for workpiece and electrode handling.

Mazak's booth was dominated by digital solutions like the Mazak Smart Box i-Smart Link, Smooth Technology and the industry standard MT Connect, and Marposs was showing its BLU concept, part of the company's Industry 4.0 smart factory initiative. It facilitates data sharing among various control system devices, using a localised network on the machine to connect, sensors, gauges and automated devices.

Of course there was much more technology to see - watch this space over the next couple of weeks for more news on IMTS and AMB, which is currently running in Stuttgart.