IMTS 2014 Showcases High-tech Future of Manufacturing

September 17, 2014

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) delivered on its theme, “come together, leave inspired” to more than114,000 attendees during the course of their show, which took place Sept. 8-13 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Pre-registration numbers were at 98,169 attendees and by the close of the show registration was at 114,147 attendees, representing 112 countries. Those numbers are a 13.9 percent increase, compared with IMTS 2012.

IMTS covered more than 1.3 million net square feet of exhibit space and hosted 2,035 exhibiting companies.

Peter Eelman, vice president of exhibitions and communications for Association for Manufacturing Technology – the show’s owner, said he was happy with those numbers. While back in the dot com days they saw higher registration, Eelman said that in terms of real manufacturers attending the show, this is about as big as it has ever been.

Three trends highlighted on the showfloor were automation, new technology, and how data is handled. Eelman said that automation is key to the industry because there are not enough people in the workforce. As a result, machines have to do more.

MTConnect, an open and royalty-free communications standard that is revolutionizing manufacturing by providing plug-n-play communications and interconnectivity between manufacturing equipment and devices, was one of the innovations introduced at IMTS 2010. In 2012, IMTS demonstrated the capabilities of MTConnect, and by this year, it was considered mainstream on the showfloor.

It will be interesting to see if 3D printing, which was the focus of this year’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC), takes a similar path.

How do you showcase 3D printing? By printing (in 44 hours) and assembling (in one day) a 3D printed car in real time during the show. The car, Strati, was designed by Local’ Motor’s global community and built using the material science and advanced manufacturing techniques available at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

“What this vehicle highlights is a new revolution in manufacturing, which is the additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing and 3D printing.” said Justin Fishkin, chief strategy officer, Local Motors.

The revolutionary part of this car is the light weighting and the parts reduction. A typical car has about 25,000 unique parts; the Strati has just 50 parts.

“The time it takes to do this will continue to dramatically decrease. In the future you will walk into an Apple-like store, choose the body of the car, choose the powertrain, and choose the wheels, and then go out shopping and stop back to pick it up,” Fishkin said.

You can’t talk about manufacturing’s future without talking about the younger generation. The Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS just about doubled in attendance this year.

Students of all ages attend the summit to learn about and interact with all the exciting technology available. In the Summit, students were able to play around with a miniature robot and then go up to the showfloor and see the same robot on a larger scale lifting a car.

Eelman explained, “A lot of schools have 3D printers, but then seeing it doing manufacturing has really jazzed up the kids.”

Not only were colleges participating in the Student Summit, but also several of the exhibitors as well. These exhibitors have embraced their responsibility to bring up the next generation.

One of those exhibitors was FANUC America. “It is imperative that we have students that come out of high school and college understanding our products being able to work in this industry. There is a tremendous skills gap here. At FANUC, it’s almost a corporate responsibility to partner with education to say we will help a school put in effective training programs,” said Paul Aiello, director Certified Education Training at FANUC.

Aiello said that many schools are saying they can’t keep students in the training program long enough. Students are getting jobs after their first year in the program.

That should be good news to Michael, a junior at Northern Illinois University of Robotics. “When I was a kid, I was always playing with Legos and the sets that had gears in it, that’s what started the whole thing. I’m in electrical engineering now.”

In high school, Michael was introduced to digital electronics, which is where his interests lie now. He said that robotics combines all the skill sets in his degree. It gives him practical experience that he feels is almost required by jobs now.

Social media also plays a big role at IMTS. Every day, they hold a “RoboQuest” contest where two Robosapiens™ Roxie and Ripley are hidden in different locations throughout McCormick Place. Hints, riddles and pictures that lead attendees to Roxie or Ripley’s location are tweeted throughout the day.

Once found, attendees can post a photo to Twitter using the hashtags #IMTS and #RoxieRobot or #RipleyRobot to enter a drawing at the end of the day for a prize.

IMTSTV runs the show Twitter feed at the bottom of the broadcast screen and attendees gravitate to the many exciting things happening every day throughout the show to pose for selfies and distribute them on their social media channels. Actual attendees and not models are shown in all their marketing which makes everything a bit more personal.

AMT also put a lot of emphasis on the 3D printed car throughout their communications and marketing for the show.

“That, from a technology standpoint, really anchored the fact that this show is about high-tech future manufacturing,” Eelman said.

As a result, the exhibitors have upped their game to match the perception of the visitors and are showcasing their newest technology.

“We’ve seen the building of that excitement in that we’ve been at 10 to 12 percent ahead of our registration numbers throughout the cycle,” Eelman said.

Exhibitor Eric Foelimer, manager, product marketing and marketing communications for Rethink Robotics, said that IMTS is a great opportunity in that there is no better way of getting both the quality and quantity of viable leads his company is looking for.

“This show delivers both,” Foelimer said. “We expect a lot of good opportunities to follow up.”

What makes IMTS so successful? “The key is to look at things from the visitors and the exhibitors perspectives; they want to be excited. Our theme is come together leave inspired, and part of that is you want to come here to learn something, you want to be exposed to something exciting. That’s what we try to put into the show, something that anyone would find exciting,” Eelman said.

Attendees Bryan Satchell and Ron Martina from Barnes Aerospace found a lot to get excited about. “We came here looking for honing machines, grinding machines, a little bit of everything,” they said. “But then we’re seeing things that are drawing us off our path,” Martina said. “It’s easy to get steered away,” Satchel added. “Yeah, way too much awesome stuff to look for!” Martina agreed.

Two different exhibitors expressed similar thoughts about the show. They said they do more business during IMTS than the entire rest of the year. One even said he wished the show took place every year, but IMTS is sticking to their schedule. The biennial show will return Sept. 12-17 to Chicago’s McCormick Place. 

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.