Plane, train, auto, bus, and ?

A season of travel reveals a healthy industry.

Fall and Spring are the two calendar periods in which the bulk of the trade shows and conferences relating to industrial lasers are held. Consequently the ILS editorial team is kept busy in these periods attending and participating in these events.

Many times these events are inadvertently planned close to one another so arranging travel schedules can be difficult; as happened this Fall almost impossible. The Fall schedule started with IMTS in Chicago-an eight-day event that, although diminishing in industrial laser importance, is still a factor and therefore is a must attend. This was followed within two weeks by ALAC in Detroit, a combination three-day conference and trade show that was a first attend for ILS. Unfortunately, bad employment news in the Detroit auto industry held down attendance. And the month was finished off with a press tour to Bystronic in Switzerland for a private introduction of the company’s new laser cutter.

October brought EuroBLECH in Hannover, Germany, where seven halls with 1400 exhibitors (more than 90 laser related) drew a record 64,000 visitors over five days in what proved to be the biggest and best of these sheet metal cutting shows. Three days later ILS had to be in Scottsdale to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ICALEO, where they registered a record attendance for this prestigious advanced laser applications conference. And concurrently ILS was in Atlanta for FABTECH, a three-day event where attendance surpassed even the most optimistic projections. Exhibitors packed every square foot of the Georgia World Congress Center, and the newly formed Industrial Laser Community presented an eye-popping working laser cell featuring five working laser systems manned by local high school students. This schedule overlap caused some of the ILS staff to take a red eye on Tuesday evening to cover both events. Other conflicts in October, MD&M in Minneapolis and JIMTOF in Tokyo, were covered by associates.

Attending all these events over eight weeks on two continents (with multiple crossings) required a combination of air, rail, auto, and bus travel. And oh yes, cable car in one instance.

Fall also brings my birthday, which for the past 15 years I have celebrated away from home, for ten years in Japan each October and for the past six in Germany. This year’s birthday celebration was made memorable thanks to good friend Jurgen Held who supplied fabulous champagne from Burgundy, carried to Hannover by Senior Editor Laureen Belleville, chilled in the refrigerator of colleagues at EuroLaser magazine, and served up in their booth at EuroBLECH among a multitude of friends and associates.

All of the above mentioned events were, for industrial lasers specifically, a great success. Attendance was up for all but one and, according to exhibitors, excellent sales were recorded, quality inquiries were at record levels, and business prospects for the coming months appear very promising. In fact, some exhibitors at the cutting shows said they were sold out for this year and were booking orders into early 2007.

Prior to making the rounds of all these events we thought that when done we’d have a good perspective on activity in the industrial laser sector. It is obvious now that the impressive results at the big shows bode well for the first half of 2007, and quite likely beyond. As we have stated many times, the fabricated metal products sector is a good barometer of the health of the manufacturing sector, and based on IMTS, EuroBLECH, JIMTOF, and FABTECH, the coming year looks bright.

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