Courtesy IMTS
IMTS 2022 main stage

IMTS Comeback Fosters Digital Enablement in Manufacturing

Sept. 14, 2022
Today’s industrial automation technology is complex to evaluate and integrate, but the race to democratize automation remains steadfast.

The opening days of IMTS 2022 in Chicago have combined the nostalgia of getting North American manufacturing back together after a four-year hiatus with the urgency of integrating digital manufacturing into plant operations.

An estimated 90,000 people are expected to attend the five-day event, and the first two days have seen strong traffic in all halls at McCormick Place in Chicago. The theme of the 33rd edition of IMTS was choreographed around the theme, “Digital Manufacturing. Implemented.” The expansion of digital manufacturing is at nine pavilions showcasing everything from machine tools to robotics to sensors, and the more than 1,200 vendors at IMTS are displaying those digital tools.

This year, Hannover Messe USA also celebrated 10 years of collocation with the IMTS show. The collaboration continues to enrich attendees with the opportunity to learn how technologies can be integrated to work together.

Another major theme that suppliers are presenting more end-to-end solutions across a broader spectrum from their past single-point product lines. Sandvik Coromant President Helen Blomqvist said the company has focused on acquiring complementary technologies to their well-known machining solutions.

“I started in an R&D background. I still recognize the culture is still the same, the passion for innovation, and most of all, customer focus still there,” Blomqvist said in an interview with Machine Design. “We have been working with digitalization and digital solutions for our customers, but we also have looked at our way of working. It’s not only about tools, but also about the collaboration.”

In their presentation about smart manufacturing, John Dyck of CESMII and manufacturing influencer Jake Hall said there were five challenges facing manufacturers looking to implement a smart manufacturing strategy:

  • The lack of skilled talent
  • The cost to implement
  • Pilot Purgatory: finding qualified individuals to run the systems
  • The lack of strategy
  • Getting executive buy-in

Similarly, exhibitors and presenters were adept at tying together their offerings with the state of the industry. In his presentation on the use of Industrial 5G, Afif Osseiran, director of Industry Engagements & Research at Ericsson, outlined what has been achieved towards full integration into the shopfloor and the corresponding (emerging) technologies used to achieve it. He provided several examples on how Industrial 5G is being evaluated on various testbeds by different companies and research institutes on promising use cases.

A presentation by Vention’s founder and CEO, Etienne Lacroix, made clear that there is a simple reason for the inability of the majority of manufacturers to profitably automate production: Automation technology was developed—and priced—for high-throughput manufacturing, according to Lacroix. While great technology is producing components and software, manufacturing automation has to this point been characterized as semi-automated, as it generally focuses on doing repetitive tasks, he argued.

“This is the real problem that needs to be corrected,” said Lacroix. “The is the one [problem] that we haven’t yet figured out how to automate in a way that makes sense for the manufacturers.”

For more IMTS content, visit our coverage hub.

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