As attendees wound their way through the booths of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) last month in Chicago, there was talk of several key industry mergers and alliances.
Fanuc—its 14-year-old joint venture with General Electric disbanded last year—created a new alliance with Rockwell Automation, leading to some conjecture on the show floor about whether a new company may be formed between the two parties. Fanuc FA America (formerly Fanuc CNC America, www.fanucamerica.com) and Rockwell Automation (www.rockwellautomation.com) announced during the week their plans to collaborate on closer integration between CNC and programmable automation controller (PAC) environments, enabling integrated automation solutions for key vertical markets, such as automotive and aerospace. The two companies will work together on connectivity between their respective controller platforms through open communication technologies such as EtherNet/IP and FL Net protocols.
Another announcement that caught attendees' attention was a joint memorandum of understanding between the OPC Foundation (www.opcfoundation.org) and the MTConnect Institute (www.mtconnect.org), which will cooperate on developing standards, called MTConnectOpcUa, to ensure interoperability and consistency between MTConnect and OPC specifications, as well as the manufacturing technology equipment, devices, software or other products that implement those standards.
IMTS organizer AMT—The Association for Manufacturing Technology (www.amtonline.org) started the week on a high note as it released, along with the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association (AMTDA), July numbers for manufacturing technology consumption, reporting a total ($266.08 million) that was up 10.1% from June and up 72.6% from July 2009. The year-to-date total of $1.48 billion is up 58.9% over the previous year. The numbers are based on data reported by companies participating in the United States Manufacturing Technology Consumption (USMTC) program, jointly compiled by the two associations.
"We are pleased that July sales have exceeded expectations and that we're not seeing the normal summer doldrums for machine tool purchases," said Peter Borden, AMTDA president, at the start of the show. "IMTS 2010, opening today in Chicago, will be a key indicator of the ongoing strength of the manufacturing recovery that we have seen gaining momentum since January."
To round out the week, MTConnect also announced the proposed establishment of the Legacy Machine Tool Connectivity Working Group, which will work to provide best practices and overall guidance for the physical connectivity of the thousands of legacy machine tools in manufacturing facilities. The group will be co-chaired by David McPhail, president and CEO of Memex Automation Inc.; and John Turner, director of technology for FA Consulting and Technology.
IMTS 2010 was the eighth largest of the show's 28-event history. And most exhibitors that Control Design editors spoke with at IMTS 2010 expressed their satisfaction with booth traffic and leads generated, particularly as the industry makes its way out of the downturn.
Show organizers said a total of 1,728 companies filled 1,180 booths in 1,137,375 ft2 of space. They reported 82,411 attendees from more than 100 countries at the show. IMTS is one of the few shows in this industry still able to adequately use the vast halls of McCormick Place, and another alliance announced during the week looks to increase the show's vitality. Show organizers will be cooperating with Deutsche Messe (www.messe.de) to co-locate Industrial Automation North America—Deutsche Messe's first North American event—with IMTS 2012, which will be held Sept. 10-15 at McCormick Place in Chicago.