October 7, 2016, marked Manufacturing Day — a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Although it was a month ago, I think it is still appropriate to honor the occasion with a report on our trip to Americas’ premier manufacturing show — the International Manufacturing Technology Show. IMTS lived up to its description. It is one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world and this year featured more than 2,400 exhibiting companies and over 115,000 registrants – its third largest attendance in its history.
If you want to take a peek at some of the programs that were at the show, IMTS produced a video series that “explores the heart and soul of advanced manufacturing and brings you stories from experts on advanced technology trends, business development expertise, valuable information on new products, equipment and services and economic, political, and educational issues facing the modern manufacturing industry.”
The event was a great place to catch up with technology trends. There were educational sessions, discussions and exhibits on additive manufacturing, robotics automation, hybrid machines, embedded sensors and processors, and the acceleration and acceptance of protocols that will help move the Industrial Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a concept closely related to manufacturing automation as the growing interest in remotely-operated equipment is creating a demand for information and communication technologies to coordinate and manage the equipment.
Manufacturers are currently looking for quick and accurate answers from their equipment. Remote monitoring and control of equipment allows manufacturers to automate additional industrial processes to perform tasks faster and more accurately. Efficiencies are gained through continuous, consistent operations, improved communications, and reduced infrastructure. Safety can be improved by removing personnel from dangerous environments and placing them in remote control rooms where they can operate equipment from a safe distance.
I’m sure safety was on the minds of the producers of “Olli,” a self-driving electric vehicle that deftly navigated through the structural support pillars in C-Hall. Equipped with Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Olli showed how 3D printing is fundamentally changing the way manufacturers create products, in turn creating a future where product development timelines are significantly reduced. (You can see a video of Olli on IMTStv.)
We understand the need for fast, accurate equipment. At our booth we demonstrated portable XRF analyzers, which are indispensible tools for helping to ensure that the right alloys are used in the correct percentages because even slight variations in the recipe can render parts defective. Material verification for alloy quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) is critical to product safety; wrong or out-of-specification metal alloys can lead to premature and potentially catastrophic part failures. If airplane parts are not manufactured with the precise alloy specified for the application, the parts may not be able to support the weight and stresses they are designed to bear. Portable XRF analyzers are able to accurately and quickly determine alloy composition and grade; just point and shoot on the incoming materials, components on the production line, or on finished products before they go out the door. Positive material identification can be achieved in seconds.
You can read about how X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology is increasingly being adopted in the auto making industry as a way to understand which elements are being incorporated into the making of a car – on the spot, and in real time. (Click here to learn more about tools and technologies to identify unknown materials and verify material composition throughout the automotive product development and manufacturing process.)
Even metal components as small as fasteners – such as screws, nuts, bolts, and clamps – must be made with the precise alloy required or catastrophes can happen.
Although not a catastrophe, I was quite disappointed that I that I didn’t get a chance to dine at my favorite restaurant, LH at LondonHouse Chicago, during the week. Its tri-level rooftop venue overlooks the Chicago River and offers sweeping views of the city. I hope you were able to take in the sights of the area while you were there. If you didn’t already, and you get a chance to visit the area again, take the classic historical Chicago kayak tour. It’s well worth the time. This “relaxing 2.5 hour kayak tour guides you through the picturesque urban chasm that is the Chicago River as it flows through downtown.”
Getting back to the show recap, during the opening ceremonies, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker gave the keynote speech. She stated that, “There are three key reasons why Made in America remains the best brand in the world: our people, our business climate and our capacity to innovate.”
And I’d like to add: our XRF technology.