Bursting its seams

The annual fabtech event continues to grow and offer MANY new opportunities

FABTECH started modestly in Cleveland, OH, in September 1981, where 161 exhibitors occupying 43,000 ft2 of floor space showed their fabricating equipment to 6400 attendees. The idea was a trade show focused exclusively on the sheet-metal-fabricating market that would be held in the off year from IMTS, which itself had fabricating equipment content.

Subsequently, FABTECH expanded to Chicago, IL, where many exhibitors, including Industrial Laser Report, enjoyed the compactness of the Rosemont convention center and the proximity of the accommodations that made commuting in early November in Chicago more pleasant. But like a lot of successful events, FABTECH outgrew Rosemont and moved into the more spacious, if less homey, McCormick Place. In so doing, over the intervening years, FABTECH expanded its fabricating content to include stamping, tube & pipe, and welding technology.

In what some considered almost suicidal, the organizers of FABTECH -the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International, in conjunction with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)-decided to make FABTECH an annual event, with the even year being an expanded regional show and the odd years being the international show. Last year’s event in Atlanta, GA, confounded the experts with its large exhibitor participation and throngs of visitors that set off-year records.

McCormick Place South is a big hall, so when FABTECH first moved there only 75% of the floor space was used, but now, with the addition of the AWS Welding Show and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), every square foot is full, part of the North Hall has been added, and there is talk of expanding further. The organizers are to be applauded for their foresight as they guessed right that the North American fabricating market was ready for a standalone show.

FABTECH 2007

This year, the week of November 11-14 will see more than 25,000 attendees and 1000 exhibitors fill the 475,000 ft2 of McCormick South Hall. And Industrial Laser Solutions will be there in Booth 8102, so stop by and see us. If we are not at the booth you might find some of us at the Innovation Theater in the North Hall, where a series of product and technology demonstrations (see www.fmafabtech.com) will take place.

Lasers have always been a key part of FABTECH, and this year will be no different, with a planned 60 or more exhibitors showing laser systems and related products. As we went to press, among the companies that will exhibit are Mazak Optronics (10023 & 10047), whose 2D exhibit will feature the new Champion, the HTX, and the HyperGear, while its 3D exhibit will feature the SpaceGear. LVD Strippit (12047) will display the new Orion Plus 3015 laser with auto load/unload and the 5kW Axel 3015 laser cutter with linear motor drives.

Not to be outdone, Bystronic (12095) will feature the compact ByVention, winner of the Red Dot Design Award, and a Byspeed 3015 cutting system. Finn-Power (16047) introduces its compact LC5 coordinate table-laser center powered by a 2.5kW slab CO2 laser.

TRUMPF (12007) will feature the TruLaser 5030 single-head cutting machine that uses a 6kW CO2 laser. NTC America (10107) will display a 2.5kW TLM laser system for three-dimensional cutting and a 5kW TLZ three-axis cutting system.

Prima North America (10195) will introduce the Domino Evoluzione, a 2D/3D laser cutting system and will show the Syncrono, said to be the fastest laser cutter on the market. MC Machinery Systems (12117) will highlight its new technology NX series laser cutter with laser power to 6 kW.

A full complement of companies that supply related products in support of the large laser cutters will be present. Among these companies is Laser Mechanisms (11029), which will feature Accushaper, a trepanning head for laser welding and cutting.

New certificate program added

Also in the North Hall, the SME and its Industrial Laser Community (ILC) will present its inaugural initiative to create a Laser Cutting Certificate program (www.sme.org/certificates). Credit goes to the ILC for perceiving a need and contriving a way to meet this need with the cooperation of the SME, LIA, and FMA. ILS praises the following equipment suppliers and show exhibitors that pitched in by supplying equipment, in addition to exhibiting: Amada America, Bystronic, Mazak Optronics, Mitsubishi Laser, and TRUMPF. As well, thanks to Harris, which is supplying controls and diagnostics; Linde, which is supplying the laser/assist gases; and the American Iron and Steel Institute, which is arranging for the steel used in the cutting demonstrations.

The Laser Cutting Certificate program will allow attendees to participate in an interactive, hands-on demonstration optimizing the operation of a CNC laser cutting machine. The three-day program will provide a standard of achievement to improve operator knowledge and understanding of laser cutting. On completing the program, operators will have documentation of this knowledge to validate their expertise. ILC Chairman Neil Ball and his committee have done a yeoman’s job in putting this program together over a two-year period. If you are a laser operator, technician, product designer, or manufacturing engineer involved in fabricating, this program may be ideal for you.

Needless to say, there is a lot going on at FABTECH other than equipment displays, so it will be a busy four days on the South side of Chicago, along beautiful Lake Michigan.

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