Quality of life: IMTS shows metalworking evolution--down to the micron.

Author:Modic, Stan
Position:Straight talk
 
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The hype and promise of attending the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago in September seems to have paid off. Since the 1970s, I've been to most of them. This one I missed; I was in the hospital, but I'm out now.

But that stay gave me a new. appreciation the technology rampant in the machine tool industry--a relatively small industry that is the basis of the country's manufacturing strength, responsible for creating the machines that make the equipment that make everything else, permitting the United States to maintain its manufacturing superiority.

Technological improvements in quality and precise tolerances within the industry permit machine tools to produce stents to open clogged arteries, titanium screws to repair bones and replace joints, and needles so fine you hardly feel them doing their job if the nurse does his/her job.

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Without that quest for new technologies, none of the lifesaving, quality-of-life medical marvels would be possible.

"Manufacturers coming to the show. from around the world--there were 92,450 visitors during the six-day show even though it was abbreviated from eight days--clearly understand that investing in the latest technology is key to being competitive," claims Peter Eelman, vice president, exhibitions, of AMT-The Association of Manufacturing Technology, sponsors of the biannual show.

Parts get smaller

They had ample opportunity to do just that with 1,803 exhibitors.

"The economic climate is strong and IMTS was another step up in technology," said Brian Papke, Mazak USA president. "Customers came with very specific objectives and were looking for solutions."

Bill Boyer, president of Columbus, IN-based Boyer Machine & Tool, was one of them. He uses the largest equipment exhibition in the country as his best source of equipment ideas. Boyer told me he saw several small machines that interested him as he plans to diversify in the tiny parts market. He specializes in high tolerance and small medical parts.

"There are a lot of parts that just get smaller and smaller and smaller," he told me. "As we make our plans to diversify further into very small parts, the micro-manufacturing innovations we saw will become part of our purchase plans."

Boyer, who has several CNC and multitasking machines already in place, says he often buys from the show floor. Many visitors did just that. Hofler GmbH finalized the sale of what it claims is the largest gear-cutting machine ever...

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