Stuff I Learned at IMTS 2022

September 16, 2022 - 4:21pm -- Selcuk Gulboy

I was pumped for IMTS 2022! I went there to listen to the heartbeat of the machining world. I set out to learn about the newest technology, interview people for Swarfcast, and stumble upon as much serendipity as possible.

A few things struck me as I strolled the vast McCormick place, gliding my iPhone around on my fancy steady cam. First, everyone was appreciative and enthusiastic to be there after four years away. Exhibitors and attendees were in good moods because business has been excellent lately. Almost all of the popular machine tool builders told me that everything at their booths had already been sold.

Personally, I was disappointed by the lack of originality of the booths. Everything there was “all business,” no room for a little fun. I saw no contortionists, no tigers (or women in tiger costumes), no chameleons, no bars constructed of ice, and only a few conventional bars to get a beer or quality cappuccino. I saw very little swag being given out besides an occasional pen. I question this philosophy of austerity, particularly for booths where there were no large machines or displays to pull me in. They were often sitting next to ten other booths offering a similar looking product or service. I didn’t know which metrology booth or which booth with manufacturing data software to stop at. I’m sure the products were important and high quality, but I did not stop by to look for a podcast interview at any of them, likely because of paradox of choice. Didn’t they have another $1,000 in the budget to put a foosball table in the booth, or give away something memorable?

It was also disappointing that many prominent OEMs brought no machines at all. Some OEMs even skipped out on the show like ZPS, Hydromat, Sandvik, or DMG/MORI, which elected to have an open house at the same time as the show at their headquarters in the Chicago suburbs.

Trends and Interesting Stuff

Enough negativity. I had a great time at the show! I saw lots of cool stuff, and I met some awesome people.

One thing I saw was tons of companies offering software for collecting data about manufacturing shops to increase their productivity. Every booth’s products, whether for 3D printers, measuring equipment, Swiss machining, or turning centers, were all offered in the name of saving time, material, and labor costs.

Star, Citizen, Tsugami and Index all told me about their machines’ capability to change tools faster in order to enable one machine to be used for more different jobs with shorter runs. The same trend was emphasized at Iscar, which told me their latest carbide inserts were quicker and easier to replace.

Iscar also told me that they were producing cutting tools more suited for taking off small amounts of material because of the growing popularity of using milling to finish off 3D printed parts. Stay tuned for that podcast!

Yesterday, I did another future podcast interview with a student and faculty member at Purdue university who run the school’s maker space club. In the club, students teach other students machining and fabrication, regardless of their majors. Engineering students, computer scientists, even English majors come together to work on projects such as a rocket that was on display at the show, which they successfully launched in the Mojave desert.

I also interviewed a manager from an automotive machining company in Mexico. There were tons of great nuggets from the conversation which will also be an upcoming podcast. The following are a few facts that stick in my mind from the conversation. Doctors in Mexico often make the equivalent of $500 to $1000 US per month, while engineers and factory workers can make twice that. He told me his company’s industrial park has 30,000 manufacturing jobs, but there still are 10,000 job vacancies. There is a large population of Japanese people in Mexico who were brought there to assemble cars. The Japanese car companies prefer to bring over people because they have trouble navigating such a different culture in Mexico.

The three interviews yesterday had all been unplanned. I met my subjects at the show, and serendipity happened. I can’t think of another type of place where I could meet so many people and learn so many things about manufacturing at the same time. Hopefully readers can get a nice taste of my experiences on social media and in my upcoming podcasts!

Question: What did you find interesting at IMTS 2022?

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