IMTS History: Week 1

In anticipation of the 2012 International Manufacturing Technology Show, which will be held in Chicago, IL, below is some history about the show from the very first days when Tom started attending. Between September 10-15, 2012, we will be updating our website daily with blog entries about the show.


An international lounge was set up to accommodate the increasing number of international visitors attending the machine tool show

With the computer revolution in its early stages, numerical control was a hot topic as the Machine Tool Exposition-1960, scheduled for Sept. 6 – 16, approached. As described at the time, it involved adapting the principle of the electronic computer to design machines to respond to instructions coded in number form on punched or magnetic tape and transmitted electronically to servo-mechanisms that operate the machine tool.

According to a Metalworking report, “Some say it will be a numerical-control show. Only five years ago, at the 1955 Machine Tool Show, a few numerically controlled machines piqued the interest of all visitors. The years since then have been filled with its excitement. This year, you’ll see the fulfillment of builders’ plans to develop the numerically controlled equipment needed to improve industry-wide, metalworking’s production efficiency.”

Alan C. Mattison, President of the National Machine Tool Builders’ Association (now AMT), sponsor of the exposition, emphasized the importance of automatic control of machines. “This is a basic development, for it changes the whole concept of present-day production. . . . Rate of production and accuracy are being built into the machine itself.”

In addition to the Machine Tool Exposition held in Chicago’s International Amphitheater, there was concurrently held (Sept. 6 – 16), by agreement with NMTBA, a Production Engineering Show at the Navy Pier. This show was devoted to “exhibits of mechanisms, instruments, and equipment” that support machine tools.

There was also a third show, the 2nd International Coliseum Machinery Show, managed by A. Byron Perkins & Associates, Inc., held Sept. 7 – 15. Both American and foreign manufacturers exhibited. With technical changes on the horizon and increased international interest, Tooling & Production magazine described the three shows as generating, “the kind of excitement associated with the impending arrival of one of Barnum & Bailey’s three-ring extravaganzas.”


1965 Machine Tool Show arena

The 1965 and 1970 exhibitions marked the end of the so-called twin shows, the Machine Tool Show, sponsored by the National Machine Tool Builders’ Association, and managed by Clapp & Poliak, Inc., and the Production Engineering Show managed by Clapp & Poliak, Inc.

The Production Engineering Show was: “A complete presentation of the equipment, devices and mechanisms that support machine tools and metal manufacturing in general.” The two shows were closely coordinated with reciprocal registration and regular shuttle bus service running between the halls.

For some years there had been discussions of both the need for an international show and the need for a shorter show cycle due to the rapid advancements in technology. In addition, it was increasingly apparent that combining the two shows so that all of the machines and related equipment would be available in one place would be a benefit to both exhibitors and show visitors. Accordingly, NMTBA announced that the 1972 show would be their “first international exhibition of machine tools and related products from major nations around the world.”

HIGHLIGHTS FROM IMTS 1972, 1974 & 1976

The Mall Level of McCormick Place at IMTS-76. First used in 1972, the hall expanded exhibitor’s possibilities with its spaciousness and high ceilings

The 1972 International Machine Tool Show was marked by a number of firsts: The first show with international exhibitors, the first show with non-NMTBA members exhibiting, the first show on a two-year cycle, and the first show to utilize the facilities of McCormick Place. The show occupied both the International Amphitheatre and the newly constructed McCormick Place (the building now known as Lakeside Center).

Magazine articles preceding the show, emphasized an increased awareness of changing technologies. Numerical control, which had been a hot topic at the 1970 show, was evolving and becoming an “irrevocable commitment.” Developing from the new computerized technologies, Integrated Manufacturing Systems (IMS) were described by Phil Geier Jr., Chairman, Cincinnati Milacron Inc., as a necessary goal to improve productivity. He predicted that by 1980, a computer software system for full automation and optimization of all steps in part manufacturing would be developed and in wide use.

He wasn’t alone in his predictions. Donald E. Chace, Product Development Manager at Digital Equipment Corp.’s Industrial Products Group, described the future of “adaptive control, where the control function is extended to optimize the machine’s function.”

The IMTS-72 International Lounge, ready and waiting for the influx of foreign visitors at the first International Machine Tool Show

The 1974 show also marked a first. It was the first show managed by NMTBA through its subsidiary the National Machine Tool Builders’ Show Inc. Management was no longer contracted to an outside company.

As in 1972, the 1974 and 1976 shows occupied both McCormick Place and the International Amphitheatre. And once again there was an emphasis on the developing technology of numerical control. Safety and noise suppression features were also prominent at IMTS-76 as the industry responded to an evolving workplace.

From the Association for Manufacturing Technology at

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