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IMTS 2016 Show Daily

Wrap Up: IMTS 2016 Succeeds in Quantity and Quality

September 16, 2016 / , Editor

IMTS 2014 was a tough act to follow, yet this year’s show succeeded again, both in terms of quantity and quality. According Peter Eelman, AMT Vice President—Exhibitions & Business Development, attendance stood at 115,020 as of Friday evening, and it should finish at above 116,000 for the entire show, topping 2014. Moreover, this year’s extremely successful Smartforce Student Summit will likely end up having drawn more than 14,000 students.

But Eelman stresses that IMTS is about much more than sheer attendance numbers: “We really want IMTS to be the event that is at the center of the manufacturing industry, and I think we are achieving that at this show.”

Above all, IMTS is about technology, and there has been plenty on display this year, particularly in AMT’s Emerging Technology Center. This exhibition focuses on leading-edge technologies that are on the verge of going mainstream, and visitors can literally see that principle on display in the ETC and in the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion located right next to it.

The centerpiece of the ETC is the AIME project, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. AIME combines additive technology with an integrated energy system in which power is shared between a hybrid electric vehicle and a building that produces and stores its own energy. Many components of both are 3D printed.

The AM Pavilion features 19 companies with equipment capable of producing production parts in a wide array of materials, including metal and plastic. Eelman also suggests that additive is on the verge of being applied to much larger metal parts, such as energy generation turbine blades. “I think this will be the show that people will remember for additive going mainstream,” he says.

Eelman feels the same way about digital manufacturing (a focus of 2014), with the broad adoption throughout IMTS of MTConnect, the data exchange standard that enables greater interoperability among controls, devices and software applications. He says the ability to exchange data is quickly becoming a given with manufacturing equipment, and now that more analytics applications are in place, companies are finally getting a handle on what’s happening on their shop floors. “Just a few years ago, few manufacturers really understood what ‘data analytics’ meant, and now you are seeing it everywhere,” he says.

Another trend Eelman sees is the broad application of innovation and automation that is squeezing still more output from machining platforms. “You just don’t see a lot of standalone machines (on display) anymore, as machine builders are delivering more value on the entire manufacturing process.”

What’s going mainstream next? Go down Hall C of the North Building to the IMTS Ride Experience to find Olli, an autonomous (driverless) transport vehicle created by AMT partner Local Motors. Not quite a car or bus, Olli is intended to be an on-demand, first- or last-mile transport for community hubs. At first glance, it might appear to be a concept vehicle, but it is not. Eelman says it is expected to be on the road within the year.

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