At IMTS, Technology is Their Middle Name

March 17, 2016

The first National Machine Tool Builders’ Exposition in 1927 featured so much equipment that a special transformer station had to be constructed to handle the 428 operating devices ranging from electric drills to
100,000-pound milling machines. More than 12,000 attendees streamed through the Cleveland Auditorium at that inaugural event.

The National Machine Tool Builders’ Association (NMTBA) launched the show with the commitment to bring new technology to the market and demonstrate the importance of manufacturing technology, both present and future. By the time the second show was held in 1929, there were about 200 new equipment items on display that amazed over 25,000 attendees, including those from industrial foreign countries like England, France, Belgium, Germany and Czechoslovakia.

During unsettled times of the 1930s and early 1940s the show faced several postponements and was only held once, the Machine Tool Show of 1935. But by the time the first post-war event took place in September 1947, it was once again a huge draw. That show also marked the first time the event was held in Chicago, at the Dodge Plant on South Cicero Avenue.

All machines that year were required to be painted the same shade of ‘machine tool gray.’ One show visitor recalled years later that the Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. (later Cincinnati Milacron) capitalized on this by introducing a new cutting fluid in bright pink and offering it to all exhibitors. The now-ubiquitous CIMCOOL® was a breakthrough at the time because it was the first synthetic fluid to combine the cooling capacity of water with the lubricity of oils, making high-speed equipment and better tool life possible.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the show was held at dual venues: the Machine Tool Exposition at Chicago’s International Amphitheater along with a Production Engineering Show at Navy Pier, and shuttles ran between the two locations.

The pace of technological change prompted the merging of the so-called ‘twin shows,’ leading to the precursor of what is now known as the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at McCormick Place in
1972 (although the IMTS name wasn’t officially adopted until 1990). The focus that year also shifted from being simply about equipment to emerging technology – especially computerized – and non-NMTBA members were allowed to exhibit for the first time. This also marked the beginning of the standard two-year rotation that IMTS uses today.

Over the following two decades, the growth of IMTS kept pace with the ever-expanding McCormick Place, and the show now fills all four buildings. The introduction of product-specific pavilions in the 1990s completely
reorganized the show and provided an improved visitor experience. Today, IMTS offers 10 technology pavilions, ranging from Metal Cutting to Gear Generation to Additive Manufacturing (3D printing and fabrication).

“While the show has taken some turns in focus over the years, its original commitment to innovation, invention, and introduction remains the same and stronger than ever,” said Peter Eelman, Vice President of Exhibitions and Communications for AMT, the Association for Manufacturing Technology, producers of IMTS. “The show exists for inspiring manufacturers to act on what’s new by taking what they see and understanding how it might work for them. It’s a directional view that produces great leaps forward in manufacturing.”

In 2014, IMTS embarked on the most audacious publicity stunt since pink cutting fluid: the creation of a working automobile at the show. In collaboration with Local Motors, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Cincinnati, Inc., a 3D-printed electric car was assembled onsite during the six-day show. On that closing Saturday, Jay Rogers, CEO and Co-Founder of Local Motors, and Douglas Woods, President of AMT, drove out of IMTS in
the newly-finished “Strati” vehicle.

The 30th edition of IMTS in 2014 was the largest six-day version of the show ever, with 114,147 attendees representing 112 countries. The showfloor covered more than 1.282 million net square feet of exhibit space with 2,035 exhibiting companies, and ranked third on the TSNN Top 250 List. IMTS 2016 is on track to occupy 1.3 million square feet and welcome 120,000 visitors this September.

While it may have begun as a type of science fair for manufacturers, today’s IMTS is heavily influenced by the pace of technology, which continues to drive growth. “

Because the world’s leading companies exhibit the best-of-their-best, IMTS visitors can be assured … they’re gathering information not readily available at any other show,” Eelman said. “From an era discovering carbide tools to one embracing the Industrial Internet of Things, manufacturing history happens at IMTS.”

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.