CHICAGO — Robotics, data and automation are bridging the gap between Silicon Valley and main street manufacturing, AMT President Douglas Woods remarked during his opening keynote at IMTS 2018, the International Manufacturing Technology Show.
“This year in particular we emphasize the word ‘technology,’” he said. “It’s a show all about technology. And all of us that have been in manufacturing for a while, we say, ‘Hey … we’ve been in technology for a long time.’ And that’s true. The big difference now, and the thing that you can really see that’s accelerating what’s happening in the industry, is now technology is becoming immersed in manufacturing. And that’s what’s new, and that’s what’s exciting.”
Woods’ comments introduced the show at Chicago’s McCormick Place, where a record 2,563 exhibiting companies greeted attendees the first day Monday. There were 2,407 exhibiting companies at IMTS 2016, and 1,475 booths at IMTS 2014. More than 1.4 million square feet of exhibit space in the multi-hall convention center are filled with the newest manufacturing technology.
In the Quality Assurance pavilion, speed, automation, data and other aspects of Industry 4.0 continue to move quality from end-of-line inspection to an in-line process integrated within the means of production. Closed-loop systems send digital data in real time, allowing engineers to fix production problems as they occur, essential in today’s automated factory floor.
High speed machine vision cameras and sensors, combined in all-in-one solutions, are also trending at IMTS. In the Omron booth, automation controllers—paired with cameras, sensors, robotics and laser marking—aid traceability, customization and flexible manufacturing solutions.
In the north building of McCormick Place, additive manufacturing continued to grow its presence compared to previous IMTS shows, and by extension, its presence on factory floors.
Stratasys highlighted its additive manufacturing capabilities for making both increasingly realistic rapid prototypes, and for making in-use production parts. Attendees at the booth viewed production parts used by Team Penske’s automotive racing team, and parts for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle made by Lockheed Martin and NASA. Stratasys’ newest machines designed for making production parts exemplify the role of quality as an in-line process, as it enable manufacturers to stream data directly from the system for quality SPC applications, either for post-process inspection, or for analysis in real time.
Likewise, another additive manufacturing provider, Carbon, showcased Adidas shoe soles printed using its Digital Light Synthesis manufacturing technology. Each shoe is also printed with a data matrix code that tags each product back to the exact printer, batch, facility and time that the part was made. Easily locating and identifying a defective batch, rather than an entire product line, can help avoid devastating mass recalls.