Amid fears of a Covid hangover, IMTS 2022 proved extremely successful with strong attendance, loads of new technology, and renewed optimism about American manufacturing. What were the big takeaways? We posed that question to the editors of Modern Machine Shop, Additive Manufacturing, and Production Machining magazines. Here’s an overview of what they said.
Automation is Everywhere – The automation theme pushed into new territories this year, including automated in-process inspection of parts, automated data solutions for quality control, and fully integrated production environments for complete part manufacturing that minimizes the need for human intervention at every turn.
Everything is Connected – “Digital Manufacturing. Implemented.” was the theme of the show and it was to be found all across the exhibition. You had a hard time finding equipment that isn’t digitally enabled, and many suppliers can help provide integrated solutions that span from design to finished quality parts.
Multitasking Continues to Grow – While larger multitasking machines become even more flexible and easy to use, Swiss-type turning centers are penetrating new markets and applications. New software is making these machines easier to program and use.
Software for Everything – Several providers publicized integrated software environments combining features from multiple programs. These companies made it clear that the secret ingredient for unattended machining — the ingredient that ties together machine tools, machine-tending robots, intelligent workholding solutions, and other automation technologies — begins with software. Likewise, more capable and intuitive CAD/CAM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are being developed for shops of all sizes.
Ease of Use is a Growing Priority – There is increasing recognition that new technology isn’t helpful if people don’t know how to use it, and equipment and software providers are responding. This becomes increasingly critical as more shops seek automated solutions in the midst of serious skilled labor shortages.
Additive Manufacturing Marches On – AM has long passed its status as a solution in search of a problem. Virtually all the major AM equipment builders have focused on developing processes that are cost-effective production alternatives for the right applications, and those opportunities grow by the day. Greater precision expands applications; wire systems (versus powder) bring simplicity of operation. Major new introductions include HP’s Metal Jet S100, a modular binder jet system for scale production, and Desktop Metal’s Figur G15, the first commercial platform of its kind to shape sheet metal on demand directly from a digital file.
EVs Will Change High-Volume Manufacturing –The push for EVs has led to redesigns not just in machine tools, but in other equipment involved in the manufacturing process, such as inspection equipment. The need for more motors, better batteries, and fewer/different powertrain components will change the mix of automotive manufacturing forever.
Supply Chain Issues Remain – Virtually all manufacturers have experienced cost and availability problems ranging from microprocessors to materials to backlogged machine and parts suppliers. That’s been a boon to domestic job shops over the last years, but as they’ve gotten busier, more OEMs are bringing some production back in-house to assure their source of supply.