Industryweek 14796 Technology

Notes from IMTS 2014: In the Mood for Investment

Sept. 8, 2014
The massive crowd at IMTS this year isn't here just to browse the latest technology. They're here to buy it.

IMTS kicked off in Chicago today in a massive way.

The counter on the IMTS homepage closed out the first day at 98,169 pre-show registrants. The rumor going around is that number is going to rise. Dramatically.

If the buzz from the floor is any indication, that's the only way it can go.

The moment they let the ribbon drop this morning, the endless halls of McCormick Place flooded with manufacturers, engineers and students taking in the full high-tech array the 1,900 expositors here have to offer.

And they had plenty to see.

The entire 2.6 million square feet of the place is crammed full of house-sized machine tools, with robots hoisting cars and high-fiving attendees, with 3-D printers growing out industrial-grade parts, and with enough software to run the world.

It is the absolute heart of manufacturing technology today – the world's most integrated, smartest, fastest and coolest technologies are all available here, running fast and on display. It's pure candy for this crowd.

But that's what IMTS is supposed to be.

What makes this show different is its crowd's overwhelming mood for investment.

In my conversation with Dave Burns – COO and president of metal and sand 3-D printing giant, ExOne – he described the crowd as "intensely interested in capital investment."

People aren't here just to browse the latest technology, he said. They're here to buy it.

"In general, IMTS has expectations overall as much better attendance than two years ago – in fact probably almost record-breaking attendance," he said. "Every square foot of booth space is sold out at the show itself and the booths are general bigger. That's probably an indication that people perceive that we are at the top of the capital spending cycle."

"Spending right now for manufacturing technology products," he added, "is pretty strong." And that's particularly true, he said, with 3-D printing.

See the full interview, ExOne COO and President Dave Burns on 3-D Printing.

If Burns is right, and if the first-day impressions hold true, this could mean some very good things for manufacturing.

If it stays on course, technology providers will come home rich with orders, ready to start making new machines for new customers. And those customers are going to arrive home ready to install new tools designed to ramp up their own productivity.

That spells a major win for global manufacturing. A win that we've waited long enough to see come through.

We just have to see if tomorrow lives up to today.

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