McCormick Place in Chicago was 76 million pounds heavier in September after a record 2,407 manufacturing technology exhibitors moved all of their equipment into the convention center’s four halls for IMTS 2016. And that doesn’t include the 115,612 registered visitors, the third largest attendance for the show. That attendance figure beat 2014’s show by nearly 1,500 people.

“IMTS has grown not only in size, but in the overall scope of manufacturing,” says Peter R. Eelman, vice president of exhibitions and business development at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and manages IMTS. “There are more compelling reasons for people to attend. Whether they come to research new technology, evaluate vendors before purchasing, find solutions, or connect with the leaders in the manufacturing industry, there is simply no substitute for attending IMTS.”

The real success statistics from the show will come throughout the next year as attendees place orders for new equipment and technology. Anecdotally, several exhibitors say a big difference between the 2014 and 2016 shows was that this year, the people visiting booths weren’t kicking tires. They had specific questions about tool and equipment capabilities and wanted to know how technology providers could help solve specific tasks.

In addition to technology displays, highlights from the show include an expanded Smartforce Student Summit to train the next generation of manufacturers, expanded co-located shows from Hannover Fairs USA, expanded educations conferences, and a 5k run that raised money for Chicago science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs. The following pages include some of the best IMTS 2016 had to offer.

AMT’s Emerging Technology Center at the entrance to the North Hall showcased 3D printing in its many rapidly advancing forms, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project (http://web.ornl.gov/sci/eere/amie) of an integrated energy system shared between a building and a vehicle, both built with additive technology. ORNL’s printed Shelby Cobra sports car and World War II Army Jeep replica demonstrated how quickly sophisticated carbon fiber big area additive manufacturing (BAAM) is developing.
Robotics were inescapable at IMTS, with countless manufacturing cells equipped with robotic arms to automate machining processes. Most dramatic, though, was the M-2000iA 1700L robot nimbly maneuvering a yellow Chevy Corvette around the Fanuc booth (www.fanucamerica.com).
The expansive Haas Automation (www.haascnc.com) and Mazak (www.mazakusa.com) booths at the entrance to McCormick Place’s South Hall. Mazak hosted a record number of visitors to its booth during the six days of IMTS 2016. The company demonstrated more than 20 manufacturing cells and systems, including a hybrid additive and subtractive machine.
Rich McDonough and Bill Redman of Kennametal (www.kennametal.com) compare notes on the company’s KM tooling line before the exhibit hall opens to the public.
Industry 4.0 (the Industrial Internet of Things, digital manufacturing) was another theme of IMTS 2016. With 32 machine tool brands in its global consortium, Fair Friend Group (FFG) (https://goo.gl/iKWRaf) offered an immersive, 3D virtual- reality factory tour. Here TMV Editor Robert Schoenberger experiences a manufacturing production line – including the ability to step into a machining center. The monitor shows only a 2D representation of what he observes.