An era closes
I’m walking through the Laser Pavilion at this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). About 60 companies offering laser systems and related products are exhibiting in this Metal Forming & Fabricating/Lasers Pavilion and other locations in the three halls that make up McCormick Place in Chicago. It’s a bittersweet experience as the Association of Manufacturing Technology (AMT) has announced that, in the future, there will no longer be a special laser exhibit area.
The AMT will join with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International, Precision Metalforming Association, and the American Welding Society to combine efforts at the November 2009 Fabtech International & AWS Welding Show, held here.
AMT President John B. Byrd, III says, “This is an example of true industry cooperation that is sure to have an impact on manufacturing.” He acknowledges that by combining their strengths they will focus on exhibitor and attendee needs rather than dividing attention amongst multiple shows.
ILS magazine sees this move as very positive and we applaud the organizations involved for an astute and welcome action that resolves many logistic and budgetary problems. This year, for example, with a strong shift to Fabtech by laser exhibitors, ILS had to run two show previews in two successive issues.
The AMT wisely will welcome laser related exhibitors to the biennial IMTS for those who are directing their promotion to non-fabricating interests. These companies will have the option of taking space in a new Non-Traditional Machining and Processes Pavilion, or elsewhere in the halls. ILS has a minor objection to the AMT still considering lasers as a non-traditional process. Now after almost 40 years with more than 350,000 installations in manufacturing environments and now holding a 10% share of the total world market for machine tools, lasers are hardly non-traditional. Sorry AMT.
I was personally one of the first industrial laser exhibitors at IMTS in the early 1980s, when the technology was truly non-traditional. And I will always be grateful to the AMT for its support of a burgeoning technology over the years, which led to the “glory” days of the late 1990s when the North Hall at McCormick featured a powerful multi-aisle Fabricating/Lasers Pavilion. Without the AMT’s promotion of laser processing, cracking into industrial markets in the US would have been harder and certainly would have taken longer than it did.
ILS has a long, fruitful, and mutually beneficial relationship with the AMT and we take this opportunity to thank the officers and IMTS management, on behalf of the laser industry, for their interest and efforts to bring our technology to the manufacturing world.
To the organizers of the Fabtech International & AWS Welding Show we also express the thanks of the industrial laser industry for their strong commitment to laser processing. With the added strength of the AMT, Fabtech 2009 should see an expanded presence of the laser companies.
Now the industrial laser community has the major laser show it wanted. Fabtech will compare favorably with the big international trade shows often used as examples of what was needed here in North America. So I urge you to show your support by joining the 2009 show and making it the most powerful display of industrial laser technology in this hemisphere.
David A. Belforte