Celebrating in distant locales

EuroBlech delivers good news for laser sales in Germany

I’m sitting in a lounge at Zurich airport waiting to make a connection to Hannover, Germany, on my way to EuroBlech, a must-see trade show that gives North American fabricators an indication of new laser cutting technology that will be available in coming months.

A fellow traveler, from Japan, sits next to me; he too is on his way to EuroBlech it turns out. His interests, like mine, are innovations in fabricating equipment being introduced by European suppliers.

Our conversation turns to the commemorative nature of the day, my birthday. I tell him that for many years I usually celebrated this day in Japan, which in several instances in the past has been extremely memorable. Like the time I “adopted” a Filipino “cultural exchange” dancer in an Osaka hostess club. But that’s another story.

I mention to him that in the past my birthday visits coincided, it seems, with the economic decline in Japan. Over the past few years I have been celebrating the day in Germany, most recently during that country’s economic downturn. Coincidence?

The celebrations in Germany have been very nice, but not on par with the exotic experiences in Japan. For example, there was the one at an exclusive French restaurant atop a tower in Tokyo, where we single-handily changed the balance of payments between the U.S. and Japan.

Talk turned to the Japanese market, which, according to a just-received report, has undergone a remarkable recovery. According to the publication Shinpo, which has a reputation for optimism, laser sheet metal cutter sales in 2004 will return to just about their year 2000 levels. At EuroBlech I was able to confirm this with colleagues familiar with this market. I found the opposite in Germany where laser cutter sales have been flat for the past two years, reflecting a dip in that country’s manufacturing sector. This led me to wonder if next year’s birthday celebration would be held in Japan.

Results at EuroBlech, however, suggest that I will be back in Germany next year as industry leaders reported strong sales from German buyers. In fact, at his press conference, Dr. Berthold Leibinger, president and managing partner of TRUMPF GmbH, reported that a larger than expected percentage of the triple-digit sales booked at the show came from German companies.

The show was an unqualified success with about 61,000 visitors checking out the products of more than1300 exhibitors. And it didn’t hurt that the first three days of the show were held in glorious weather, unusual for Hannover in late October. Because my interest was laser related I spent three days visiting the more than 70 exhibitors showing systems and related products and services. Exhibitor sales personnel were hard pressed to handle the crowds of visitors that were packed three and four deep around some of the latest in laser cutting systems such as the TRUMPF Trumatic 3000 Laserpress, a combination machine with a hardly noticeable TCF-1 CO2 laser that is integrated into the C frame. Strong interest was shown for the Finn-Power L6 linear drive cutter, a Schuler Held laser welder that joins stiffeners to aluminum fuselage sections of the Airbus, and Bystronic’s Byspeed 4020 cutter with 5.2 kW of power. A 4kW Nd:YAG laser hybrid welding cell from Cloos and Weil Engineering’s MiniMaster tube welder were very innovative. Reis Robotics showed an arm-mounted TRUMPF laser and Rofin Sinar introduced a 600W sealed-off CO2 for cutting thin metal sheets.

These were just a few of the more than three dozen laser systems that made this year’s EuroBlech memorable. This year because of the national election day in the United States, Fabtech was rescheduled to the same week as EuroBlech, an unfortunate situation as many attendees were forced to choose between shows, affecting their attendance at one or the other.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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