This year, the FABTECH show in Chicago and the MD&M conference in Minneapolis were scheduled during the same week. This means that not only was there not enough time to really hit both shows hard, there was not even time to make local customer visits and many of the vendors at both shows like to make local visits during scheduled conferences.
Since I really wanted to go to both venues, I flew to Chicago on Sunday to take in the show on Monday. It was already very busy. The final metrics are that almost 45,000 people attended the show from 120 countries and 1700 companies exhibited. TRUMPF had not one, but three large booths, and other companies like Amada and IPG Photonics had a large presence. Like the last few years, additive manufacturing played a very prominent role, and a number of booths were offering equipment and services related to it. In addition, the show organizers had a new 3D/Additive Manufacturing Pavilion and Theater where they had tech tours, presentations, panel discussions, and more. From the numbers alone it was probably the best show ever, but there was also a certain vibe on the floor and everyone I talked to thought the turnout was great—and had positive feelings for the business prospects going forward into and through 2018. I truly wish I had more time to spend at FABTECH, as one day is not enough to do the show justice.
Onward to Minnesota. I guess I could have spent another day at FABTECH, but I really wanted to go to the IPG (formerly ILT) Open House on Tuesday afternoon. This used to be the hot spot to be, but this year attendance was way down for two reasons. First, a number of people that normally attend were at FABTECH. Second, participation was limited this year to exclude people (including vendors) who have set up tabletops in the past. By the way, IPG has had over 50% growth in Q3 compared to the same time last year, and has already surpassed their 2016 numbers by the end of the third quarter. As David Belforte has pointed out a number of times, IPG growth is really helping to drive the growth of the industry.
Wednesday of the actual MD&M show (first day of two) was very busy at least until mid-afternoon. I was not there on Thursday, but I was told that attendance dropped off from the day before. At FABTECH, there was very little in the micromachining category, while at MD&M there were lots of booths showcasing lasers and also many small companies (and a few large companies like Cretex and Resonetics) offering high-precision job shop services. I would have to say that, from my perspective, this show has surpassed the NYC show in June and I would suggest that if a choice has to be made between the two, this show provides more bang for the buck than NYC—although the Anaheim show is still probably tops for most vendors.
On a final note, I did a webcast for Industrial Laser Solutions on November 1st on interesting applications of ultrashort-pulse (USP) lasers--I had 477 people registered from 55 countries on six continents. I actually had a number of people come up to me at both of the above venues and tell me they had tuned in. I heard a rumor that IPG is almost ready to announce their USP offerings, but I have heard this rumor before. I know they are working hard and have hired industry veteran David Clark (formerly Coherent and Spectra-Physics) to head the initiative. I guess we will see where things are at SPIE Photonics West—the next big venue for all of us laser guys.
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