Bigger Shows Show a Bigger Industry

By on October 4th, 2018 in Event

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 We’ll be spending a lot of time on these escalators next month. [Image: formnext]
We’ll be spending a lot of time on these escalators next month. [Image: formnext]

Manufacturing shows offer a glimpse of the latest and greatest in industry — including when that next big thing is industry itself.

In 2018, we’re seeing some interesting milestones as both IMTS and formnext filled their massive sites to capacity for the first time. Held on different continents, each of these shows has a big reputation in manufacturing, with the former dedicated to all manufacturing technologies and of course dominated by traditional subtractive techniques. It’s the latter that’s showing faster growth, though, as the event dedicated to “the next generation of manufacturing technologies” has quickly become the largest on the additive manufacturing calendar.

Discussing the two together allows for a glimpse into the bigger picture of industry, and it is particularly interesting that both hit this milestone in the same year.

IMTS 2018 was the show’s 32nd edition. The biennial event draws great crowds every even-numbered year to “North America’s premier manufacturing show.” There’s no denying it’s been significant in terms of both physical exhibition space and magnitude of announcements made each edition, but 2018 set a number of new records — including for the first time completely filling all five levels of all four halls of Chicago’s McCormick Place.

In 2018, IMTS featured:

  • 129,415 registrations (beating the 1998 record of 121,764)

  • 1,424,232 square feet of exhibition space (beating the 2000 record of 1,415,848 square feet)

  • 2,123 booths / 2,563 exhibiting companies (beating the 2016 records of, respectively, 1,808 and 2,407)

  • More than 55 million pounds of machinery brought in on 4,465 trucks — with eight machines weighing more than 100,000 pounds

“A myriad of factors are bolstering the manufacturing technology market, and IMTS 2018 has expanded its exhibit space to accommodate the increased interest,” says Peter R. Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions & Business Development at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS.

“Factors include the exponential rate of technology advances, the need to use technology instead of manpower to boost productivity and the strongest manufacturing economy in a decade. Businesses have more money and will continue boosting their investment in capital equipment and R&D. Coupled with higher consumer confidence, manufacturers need to increase production to meet strong demand.”

 Crowds at IMTS 2018 [Image: Fabbaloo]
Crowds at IMTS 2018 [Image: Fabbaloo]

Among the floor space was the 31,550-square-foot Additive Manufacturing Pavilion, with 51 exhibitors.

While 2.2% of total exhibition square footage may not seem like much, in perspective it was still a solid showing in AM at this year’s IMTS — and one that extended well beyond the dedicated pavilion.

“Every building in McCormick Place featured AM technology. Four years ago when we produced the Strati vehicle on the show floor, large-scale AM was a novelty. At IMTS 2018, AM technology was part of the manufacturing processes used to produce the entrance hall impact units,” Eelman said.

The spread of additive manufacturing technology absolutely had a lot to see; personally, I logged between five and six walking miles each of my three days at this year’s IMTS. I wasn’t tracking that at the 2016 event, but feel pretty secure in having probably doubled my step count from that edition. Major announcements were made, as increasingly 3D printing moves toward industry with additive technologies ready to fit side-by-side into existing manufacturing workflows. The fit of additive manufacturing into a manufacturing show highlights the seriousness with which these advanced technologies are increasingly being taken.

Coming soon on the heels of IMTS — and of last week’s TCT Show — formnext is gearing up to be even larger and more significant than ever as well.

Focusing squarely on advanced manufacturing technologies, it didn’t take long for formnext to become an absolute must-attend for this industry. The 2016 event was impressive; the 2017 event effectively ran me ragged through the two levels of exhibit space; in 2018, formnext seems to want us all to pass out from exhaustion each day. I haven’t yet begun my meeting or press conference scheduling for formnext 2018, but already know the top item on my packing list: insoles. (3D printed from 3D scans of my arches, of course.)

Ten weeks before the open of the event, formnext 2018 hit capacity.

With two levels, exhibition Hall 3 is expecting 550 exhibitors to fill the 36,000-square-meter space to capacity. To keep consistent with the square footage noted above for IMTS, that’s 387,500 square feet of exhibition space — or 12x the size of the IMTS Additive Manufacturing Pavilion with nearly 11x the number of exhibitors.

About 55% of the exhibitors are international, with showings from 33 nations, including China, the US, Italy, the UK, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The organizers report that 165 companies from 26 countries will be exhibiting for the first time.

“The fact that we’ve been able to occupy all the exhibition space so well even after expanding again underlines the highly dynamic and sustainable growth of formnext,” said Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President for formnext at event organizer Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH. “This is an impressive confirmation of the exhibition concept that we have developed together with the industry.”

I’m already exhausted just thinking about formnext 2018 — and very glad that all of Team Fabbaloo will be on-site in Frankfurt all week, the better to see more together.

And because of course it is, formnext is already looking toward an even larger 2019. The organizers say:

“To sustainably meet the growing demand, Formnext will next year be moving to the newly built exhibition hall 12 of the Frankfurt exhibition grounds, which combined with hall 11, provides exhibition space of around 58,000 square meters.”

So these shows are big, so what? Our feet will hurt, the halls will be loud and crowded, everyone will be clamoring for coffee, and announcements of new products and partnerships are sure to abound — so what? They’re shows.

It’s what the shows show that shines as a beacon through the darkness of noise: the shows are big and growing because the industry is big and growing.

IMTS and formnext in particular are focused on industry, on production solutions for manufacturing environments. That there’s so much to show, especially for additive manufacturing, and in conjunction with globally respected brands and alongside traditional technologies, is itself huge. McCormick Place and Messe Frankfurt are major convention centers, able to fit thousands upon thousands; that 3D printing is filling thousands of square feet of exhibit space with viable solutions is a pretty big deal.

But don’t take my word for it; see you in Frankfurt?

Via IMTS and formnext

By Sarah Goehrke

Sarah Goehrke is a Special Correspondent for Fabbaloo, via a partnership with Additive Integrity LLC. Focused on the 3D printing industry since 2014, she strives to bring grounded and on-the-ground insights to the 3D printing industry. Sarah served as Fabbaloo's Managing Editor from 2018-2021 and remains active in the industry through Women in 3D Printing and other work.