Three Takeaways from IMTS 2018


IMTS 2018

The International Manufacturing Technology Show takes place every two years, a massive demonstration of the breadth and depth of manufacturing solutions.

This year’s event was record-breaking in size, a testament to the vitality of the industry. It broke a 20-year record in attendance (129,415) and an 18-year record in area (1.424 million square feet of exhibit space). The expanse is nearly overwhelming, spanning every building of Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. New solutions and machines are there to discover from companies of every size, from innovations by small startups to 10,000 square foot, multi-story booths of the industry giants. You can’t help but wonder what the weight on the floor is from all the machinery (Fabbaloo cleared up this mystery: 55 million pounds).

Among the conversations we had and the technology we explored at IMTS, we took away a couple of impressions:

Additive is a production solution

Additive manufacturing is moving to production, and this is taken seriously by solution providers and manufacturers alike. Advances in metal additive for production parts were prominent, including the debut of HP Metal Jet that places a major new player into the MIM solution space, the launch of Velo3D Sapphire, capable of printing 5-degree overhangs and inner diameters of 40 mm without supports, and the impressive quad laser powder bed fusion technology from Renishaw.

Connectivity is expected

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with the amount of focus on smart manufacturing in the industry, nearly everyone is working to make their solutions connected and smart. What was a welcome departure from conversations at previous events was that the attendees we spoke with, from small job shops to larger manufacturers, see connectivity as a requirement not an interesting future trend. The long-standing industry aversion to the cloud appears to be finally passing.

A dashboard isn’t enough

Seemingly every machine manufacturer on the floor also had a dashboard to show off their data. But while digitalization enables access to greater and greater amounts of data on the manufacturing process, all these different dashboards illustrate how big of a gap there is in making that data useful. An operator may be able to view insights on a machine, or on a group of equipment from the same manufacturer, but that’s not a complete picture of the factory. The traditionally siloed nature of manufacturing lives on in the approach to data.

At Oqton, we’re building the platform that connects data across these currently siloed processes and provides an integrated AI engine to leverage that data to quickly manage change and support informed decision making. In two years at the next IMTS, manufacturing will look very different than it does even today. Contact us to learn more about Oqton FactoryOS, we look forward to talking with you.