To see other IMTS preview videos, visit our coverage hub or watch this video until the end.
It’s been four years since the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) has been staged in Chicago, and those four years have seen seismic change in manufacturing and the world. As the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) prepares to stage North America’s largest manufacturing show on the shores of Lake Michigan, Machine Design Senior Content Director Bob Vavra spoke with Peter Eelman, chief experience officer at AMT, about the changes in technology and presentation for this year’s event and how the 2022 show will be familiar, yet very different. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Bob Vavra: We write a lot about the integration of legacy equipment with new technologies so that you’re not ripping and replacing, that you’re adding on to a lot of the old technologies. Even traditional things like PLCs are undergoing a tremendous transformation in the digital age. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of integration and trying to help small- to mid-sized manufacturers in particular—where the largest part of your attendee list is—understand how they go from where they’re at to where they’d really like to be.
Peter Eelman: At AMT, we’re very proud that that kind of the first steps toward integrating legacy equipment and getting a better handle on things really came through MT Connect. MT Connect was the communication protocol that we founded and we’re a big part of inventing. It’s now ubiquitous, it’s everywhere in the show and it’s also with our European partners. So that when you think about it, that was a huge step toward taking the concept of digital manufacturing and making it real.
What MT Connect did was it was truly an enabling technology that let digital manufacturing become part of your future, part of your present. And now you can use MT Connect to really look at your operation and say, how do we move this forward in multiple directions?
BV: You know, MT Connect’s a great example of what I want to talk about next. I joked about your four-year vacation, but I know AMT is so much more than just IMTS. Talk about some of the other things. You did a great job talking about MT Connect; Talk about some of the other ongoing efforts at AMT that you’re excited about.
PE: I’ve been now at AMT for 26 years. When I first came here, we had a lot of different departments. We were in this chopped up, fairly old building and you had people that would come and go to work, and you wouldn’t cross paths with them for weeks at a time. You wouldn’t know what was going on here or there.
AMT now is a connected association, a connected group. And really, you know your question of what AMT has been working on: Connected factory is a term we hear a lot at AMT. Our technology group—Tim Shinbara is a big part of that—is really involved in how that connected factory functions. What are the specifications that are required? What are the regulations we have to work through? Where are we in the connected factory?
We also have kind of been on the forefront in the data-driven decisions. I know AMT is as an organization was probably one of the first, if not the only at the time, trade associations that employed a data scientist. We knew kind of early on and made the decision. Doug Woods, our president, very much attuned to the data side of things and that you need to look at this data. And even today, we know we’ve barely scratched the surface. But there are many, many nuggets of information that you can mine.
And that’s a big part of what AMT has been doing in the last four years: working with ways to develop data solutions and data information. We also have recently really started to embrace, as has the overall industry, the world of additive manufacturing. We’ve hired some folks that that really have experience in that area and they’re analyzing where this is going. It’s a technology that grew up at IMTS. It was in the Emerging Technology Center not that long ago. Now it’s a full-blown pavilion.
We have the additive manufacturing conference. We’ll be introducing the AM For You area, which is in partnership with the world’s largest 3D printing show, Formnext, which we are actually going to partner with and bring to the United States in 2025: Formnext Chicago. AMT is right in that vanguard with our members.
We also have a couple of special events. One we’re calling the Investors Forum. Manufacturing…for a long time, we worked in the shadows. We were kind of the forgotten industry, the foundation industry, but maybe it took the supply chain problems to start to point out that manufacturing is pretty darn important to being successful. And that investor that has attracted some folks that want to invest in this business. And so that’s one, it’s called the Investor Forum. We have a large group of investors coming through to look at our industry and figure out where they might be able to participate.
But also have one entitled “Women Make Manufacturing Move.” This is reflecting the change in our industry. Our industry used to look a lot like Peter Eelman and Bob Vavra, and it doesn’t look like Peter Eelman and Bob Vavra anymore. And we’re recognizing that, and this is our first Women Make Manufacturing Move conference. We’ve got a number of events around that that I think really reflect the changes from [where we were].
I have a last word. We’re running close to a registration deadline to keep your lower cost registration. So get on that website, register and get your hotel room, because we’re running out of those, too. We’ll see you at IMTS.