At Home at IMTS

The leading North American event for manufacturing this year becomes one of the more important events for additive manufacturing as well.


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When it comes to AM, we are still working out the answers to some basic questions. Here is one of the most basic of all: Just what is an additive manufacturing machine? What category does it belong to? If a machine makes production parts through an additive process, what type of machine is this?

One answer says this machine is a 3D printer. It belongs in the same category as the entire range of devices, from desktop units on up, that make solid forms through 3D printing.

A different answer says this machine is manufacturing technology. It belongs with other industrial equipment that manufacturers rely on for production.

Neither answer is wrong. Both answers can be correct. But as additive manufacturing advances, we are finding that one of those answers—the industrial answer—is ascending.

One clear marker of that ascent this year will be IMTS, the International Manufacturing Technology Show held every other September—the biggest recurring manufacturing event in North America. Many colloquially refer to this event as the machine tool show. Meanwhile, the major events for additive technology have tended to be 3D-printing focused. This year, however, the latest steps in the natural evolution of IMTS will turn this show into one of North America’s leading events for additive manufacturing as well.

Two developments:

  1. AM Pavilion. IMTS has long been organized into just 10 or so pavilions defining the major technology categories at the show. This year, additive manufacturing will be one of those major categories, as IMTS 2016 sees the launch of the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion. AM exhibitors will be located together in a prominent area of the show recognizing the significance of this now-accepted option for making functional parts.
  2. AM Conference. What began as a 1/2-day workshop on AM at the previous IMTS was followed by a more extensive gathering last year in Knoxville. This year, the successor to those events will be the Additive Manufacturing Conference 2016, to be held on-site at IMTS (that is, in Chicago’s McCormick Place) during two days of the show, September 13-14.

Judge for yourself the importance of these developments. I am biased; the organizers of IMTS support this magazine and I am directly involved in putting together the AM Conference (which this magazine hosts). However, that latter role has given me a striking view on one other detail of the advance of additive into the industrial space. This year, the number of relevant presentations to choose from has surged. Just last year, in looking for potential speakers, we had to weed out plenty of submissions because they were too much about 3D printing and too little about industrial manufacturing. But for AMC 2016, we have been overwhelmed with solidly industrial speaker submissions—not just from developers and researchers of additive technology, but also from successful production users. The painful challenge this year has been to select only the number and variety needed to fill the slots, because we heard from more worthy speakers than there are available slots in even a densely scheduled program.

You can find a link to the roster of speakers at the address at the end of this paragraph. If you are still weighing whether to attend IMTS this year, I hope you’ll factor the chance to attend this conference into your evaluation. Alternately, if you know you’ll be going to IMTS but just haven’t yet locked in your plans, then please make the Additive Manufacturing Conference part of your schedule. To learn more and register, visit additiveconference.com