Advanced Manufacturing

Field Report: 2015 Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show

Just last week I had the pleasure of dropping in on the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Show hosted by the Dayton Regional Manufacturers Association. Dayton, Ohio, an aerospace and manufacturing hub, plays host to this advanced manufacturing regional event each year.

I last visited the show three years ago. Wow! Things have changed!

Technology reviewed over time often amazes the viewer by its rapid development. What was cutting edge three years back is now quite commonplace. This show proved that theory to be true on several levels especially in advanced manufacturing field.

Size and Participation

I remember walking away from this advanced manufacturing event three years ago with a feeling that the future looked pretty good. Most of the folks I spoke with were up and spoke positively about their businesses and how they were anticipating good sales for the coming year. This year the discussion was more about business specifics. I’ll talk more about that later.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of attendees. A long line was waiting for us when we arrived, and the show staff did a great job of moving folks through the registration process to obtain their floor badges. My recollection is that there were perhaps three for four registration desks last time around, while this time there were seven or eight stations.

From the standpoint of exhibitors, the show is clearly picking up steam. Without counting the booths or exhibitors listed in the show brochure, I would guess that the show had well over 150 booth displays in operation. The hall was 100 percent utilized for exhibit space with two exceptions: a food court and a small presentation center. I would guess that there were perhaps three additional aisles this year over the hall configuration during my last visit.

I think there were more “big” displays this year. These featured production-model machines going through their paces in demonstrations of their capabilities.

Manufacturing Recovery?

This year people were speaking of business activity with much more conviction. There was more of an attitude of success expectation based on successes that are continuing from the previous year. Booths were more crowded, and there were perhaps an additional one-third as many exhibitors at this year’s show. Last time I could walk into a booth and almost immediately engage with someone; however this year, I was many times looking over someone’s shoulder while the booth personnel addressed an audience of 10 or even 20 people.

Exhibitors were selling on this show floor, price tags were prominently displayed and the arm-wrestling was in progress.

There is little doubt in my mind that this manufacturing-centric area is indeed recovering some of its pre-2007 strength.

The Technology

At AMTS, technology is the star of the show. In addition to the standard machine-tool providers, there were many vendors supplying highly specialized and general-purpose 3D printing rigs. Robotics vendors were out in force as well.

With regard to the 3D printing on display, the development of this technology over the intervening three years is evident. During my first show, most of these guys were just making basic shapes composed of single-color, single-composition fixed pieces.

This year, these printers were turning out multi-colored products made from metals and plastics in combination. Many of these products contained highly detailed, interlocking, moving parts built up in a single pass—complex products featuring moving gears and other structures. 3D is still the subject of much conversation and excitement, but other precision machining technologies were represented as well.

Robotics was also showing more products and applications. End of Arm product vendors (the folks that build the actual devices wielded by the robots) were there in great numbers as well.

There are also amazing things going on there. The ability of robots to inspect and sort products retrieved from a bin, to match product to a variety of predefined dispositions and other marvels, were on display. Robotics is going to continue to enable a lot of re-shoring.

Many other advanced technologies were on display in Dayton this year. Precision waterjet cutting tools, measuring devices that are able to map out three-dimensional surfaces quickly and with incredibly precise and small tolerance variable were getting lots of “wows” as well.

Lots to See for Everyone

One other thing I noticed, which I hope is a growing trend, was the presence of people who are not directly involved in manufacturing. I would love to see this trend develop. School kids, college students and almost anyone can benefit from seeing these types of shows.

We can all benefit from having a greater appreciation for how things are made and how even the everyday things in our lives require ingenuity and leading-edge technology to create.

Since so much of our daily exposure to technology is through computing, communications and transportation, it is easy to lose sight of how important the art and science of manufacturing really is to our daily lives. Even the most mundane of products has an interesting story to tell in terms of how it comes into being.

If you ever get a chance to visit this show or any show featuring manufacturing technology, you really should stop in and take a look. Prepare to be amazed!

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