A giant yellow robot with 2,000 payload capacity spinning pallets in the air; a desktop 3D printer constructing eight drone arms in just 16 minutes; and Otto Lifter, the smartest autonomous forklift — these were just a few of the impressive innovations that captivated attention at the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running and largest industry trade show.
After being previously canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) was back this year, running from September 12 to 17, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, and it attracted some of the biggest names in industry.
There were more than 85,000 registrants for IMTS this year, with visitors outnumbering exhibitors by 35%. At IMTS, professionals, students, and tech enthusiasts had the opportunity to explore technology created by leaders in industry, attend panel discussions on hot topics in manufacturing, and network with like-minded thinkers to continue advancing Industry 4.0.
Below, we dive into three key takeaways from this year’s IMTS.
Hosted by The Onshoring Project, this year’s inaugural IMTS Smart Sourcing Symposium offered actionable insights and tools to boost the profit of domestic sourcing by strategically choosing suppliers.
Paul Ericksen, supply chain columnist for IndustryWeek, dove into manufacturing critical path time (MCT), which can be utilized to recognize areas for improvement in sourcing and identify true lead time. Adding to the conversation, Cathy Ma, vice president of platform growth and engagement at Thomasnet.com®, a Xometry company, explained how Xometry’s AI-driven marketplace, alongside Thomasnet.com’s 500,000 suppliers, allows buyers to skip unnecessary questions like, “Do you make this part?” and jump right into production.
“When [users] register as one of our suppliers, we give them all the software and all the tools. All they need to do is grab the job from our job board,” said Ma as she explained Xometry’s machine-learning platform.
Robots Are Transforming Manufacturing
With robots serving a variety of industries and functions, IMTS displayed the many uses of robots and cobots in industry.
Eric Foellmer, VP of marketing at Boston Dynamics, brought Spot, an agile mobile robot, to the IMTS stage. With impressive mobility and accuracy, Spot is automating inspection tasks prone to human error and capturing critical data.
Using simplified operating and programming features, cobots are making waves in industry. Robotics company FANUC put this on full display with its CRX series of collaborative cobots. Built for small- to mid-size manufacturers that have yet to automate any operations, FANUC’s cobots can automate entire assembly lines and lift up to 77 pounds.
Additive Manufacturing Is Shaping Industry
Additive manufacturing hasn’t always been viewed as accessible. In the past, 3D printers took up quite a bit of space, cost a pretty penny, and required a lot of training to use. But leaders in additive manufacturing have set out to change that.
On September 15, an IMTS 3D printing workshop explained how using low-cost 3D printing capability can make machine tools more efficient and improve workflow. An example of this is Nexa3D’s easy-to-use desktop XiP printer. Taking less than 20 minutes to print, the XiP can quickly produce critical parts for the engineering, dental, and medical industries.
However, people that don’t own a machine shop can also benefit from the flexibility of additive manufacturing. Greg Paulsen, director of applications engineering at Xometry, explained how digital marketplaces are paving the way for a new era in manufacturing. As a two-sided marketplace, Xometry benefits both buyers and suppliers, remains open 24/7 for instant quotes on 3D printed parts, and is powered by AI, which means it is always improving.