IMTS History: Week 2

This is the second week of history excerpts about the International Manufacturing Technology Show. The 2012 show will be held in Chicago, IL, next week. Between September 10-15, 2012, we will update the website with daily blog entries about the show.


The 1980 show was marked by a high level of enthusiasm, symbolized by the very special ribbon prepared for the opening ceremony.

In 1978, the McCormick Place facility was expanded to include Donnelley Hall. The building (later to be known as McCormick Place West) had been donated to the city of Chicago by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., a large printing firm that had constructed the building in 1946-47 to print and bind LIFE magazine. With this expansion, the entire machine tool show could be held at one location.

By 1980 the machine tool show had grown so large that it overflowed even the expanded McCormick Place facility and additional space had to be used in the Conrad Hilton Hotel. This blockbuster show, “broke virtually every industrial exposition record ever set,” according to post show reports, and set the stage for continued expansion through the ’80s.

In 1982 and 1984, further growth was made possible by use of the O’Hare International Trade and Exposition Center as an additional show site. Technical Conference sessions were added in 1982, providing visitors with an opportunity to supplement the valuable information already provided by exhibitors and exhibits.

McCormick Place North opened for the 1986 exposition, making IMTS 86 the first U.S.-based show to exceed one million net sq. ft. under roof. Unfortunately, because of construction delays, one floor of this new, modern exhibition facility was not ready for occupancy. IMTS 88 occupied all three halls of McCormick Place and saw the first appearance of the robot hand, which remained the symbol of the show through the ’90s.

By 1990 the official name of the show was changed to the International Manufacturing Technology Show, reflecting the changing industry and the broader scope of exhibits. Other changes included the setting aside of an area as a Forming and Fabricating Pavilion, grouping these related exhibitors together; and participation by The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) as co-sponsors and managers of the expanded technology conference.


The 90s saw many changes in the ever-evolving International Manufacturing Technology Show and in the new and exciting technologies represented at each succeeding show.

In 1992 the Expocard system was introduced, making it easier and faster for attendees to request information and for exhibitors to gather data on potential customers. Various pavilion and focus areas were developed throughout the decade, helping visitors to find their way around the vast show space. In 1998, the newly expanded McCormick Place complex was itself the star of the show. IMTS used the entire facility, the East Building, the North Building and the South Building (which had been only partially completed in 1996). Visitors who remembered the labyrinth of tunnels connecting buildings in earlier years, appreciated the Grand Concourse which made getting from building to building much easier.

Throughout the decade, significant technical breakthroughs highlighted show after show. In 1994 the big product news was the unveiling of the startling hexapod machine design technology. The undisputed star of the show was the Variax, Giddings & Lewis Inc.’s version of these six-legged machine tools. And controls, often based on PCs, were growing faster, more accurate, and easier to use. In 1996, linear motors were much in evidence and allowed machines to operate at incredible rates. One horizontal machining center was able to reach axis travel speed of 3,000 inches per minute and acceleration as high as 1.5G.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM IMTS 2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, & 2010

IMTS 2000 began the new millennium with attendance once again over 100,000 visitors, 1.4 million sq ft of space and 1354 exhibitors coming to see and purchase the latest in advanced equipment and technology…the most productive machine tools in the world.

IMTS.COM became a rising star with over a 400 per cent increase in web site traffic. Exhibitors were able to purchase advertising packages to market their products and services and attendees were able to pre-plan their show visit and save countless hours at McCormick Place.

IMTS 2002 saw the worst manufacturing economy in history but over 1,350 exhibitors occupied almost 1.3 million sq ft of exhibit space. Over 85,000 visitors attended the show and while this was a decrease from previous shows the visitor quality and buying role took a step upward. Reduced company travel budgets and lingering travel concerns after 9-11-01 gave the show a different feel. Both visitors and exhibitors were looking for some good signs that the economy was coming out of its doldrums and the show did provide a shot in the arm to the beleaguered machine tool industry.

IMTS 2004 marked the celebration of the 25th actual show spanning seventy-seven years. One can only wonder what the organizers of the National Machine Tool Builders’ Exposition (Sept. 19 – 23, 1927) would think if they could see the show and the awesome display of technology on display today.

By the fall of 2004 the five-year decline in manufacturing capital goods sales had reversed and recovery was underway. That was reflected both in attendance of 86,232 and in the return of buyer interest and enthusiasm on the show floor at IMTS 2004, September 8-15. Some 1,277 exhibitors filled over 1.15 million square feet of exhibit space and nearly all reported that eager crowds had delivered more leads and sales than they expected.

An innovative Emerging Technology Center, created in partnership with GE Fanuc Automation, presented manufacturing “technologies of the future” from leading universities and government research labs. With this feature, IMTS returned to its roots, since from the beginning these shows had been forums where the latest technologies had first been seen. The Student Summit drew 6,462 students and educators, 50 percent more than at the previous show, from 37 states and 11 foreign countries.

IMTS 2006 saw attendance surge to 91,985 as the recovery in manufactured capital goods continued to attract an educated attendee looking for the latest technology available. Some 1,229 exhibitors filled over 1.16 million square feet of exhibit space and leads and sales justified their participation at IMTS 2006.

The highly attended Emerging Technology Center, sponsored by The Ex One Company continued to present the latest in leading edge technologies. The NIMS Student Summit drew over 6,600 students and educators. NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) will continue to sponsor and produce the Student Summit at IMTS 2008 and be a welcome partner in this important and educational endeavor.

Posting its strongest showing since 2000, IMTS 2008 covered 1,233,878 square feet of exhibit space with 1,803 companies exhibiting.

Attendance was 92,450 and the show for the first time became a six-day event. IMTS 2008 also introduced the new McCormick Place West Hall.

Along with healthy traffic on the show floor, other highlights for attendees and exhibitors included the introduction of software standard MTConnect, an advanced manufacturing center and the new innovation center.

IMTS 2008 was a very productive show for both visitors and exhibitors, keying on helping attendees find ways to improve their operations.

IMTS 2010 ran from Sept. 13-18 at McCormick Place in Chicago

Strong results at IMTS 2010 signaled a strong comeback in manufacturing. Total registration for the six-day event was 82,411. IMTS covered 1,137,375 square feet of exhibit space with 1,728 companies exhibiting in 1,180 booths.

Along with the healthy traffic on the show floor, highlights for attendees and exhibitors included the Emerging Technology Center, the Advanced Manufacturing Center, the reinvented Industry & Technology Conference, a Manufacturing Museum, and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) Student Summit.

During IMTS 2010 the Emerging Technology Center was a hub of excitement featuring MTConnect®, additive manufacturing, cloud computing and micro- and nano- manufacturing. The MTConnect Institute demonstrated the MTConnect software protocol using 22 remote locations and nine apps ranging from shop floor productivity and production monitoring to maintenance. On the show floor, MAG, Mori Seiki, Okuma and Mazak had 60-70 machines tied to the demo at any given moment.

ITAMCO, a Plymouth, Ind.-based contract manufacturer launched an MTConnect iPhone app during IMTS. It can be used to connect multiple MTConnect agents so the user can view real-time data from their machines and controls on the iPhone.

Seeing the end result of manufacturing technology was more prominent than ever during the 2010 show. More than ever before, exhibitors featured parts and products made by their equipment and products. Two exciting end products featured by GIE Media were the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and Tesla Roadster. Lockheed Martin brought the full-scale model of the F-35 to the show floor where visitors could learn about the plane’s construction and the manufacturing technology behind it. The Tesla Roadster is a two-seater that goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and proves that electric cars can be performance cars.

The Advanced Manufacturing Center presented by the University of Sheffield’s internationally-acclaimed Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, North America’s premier metalworking technology magazine, Modern Machine Shop, Rolls-Royce and IMTS 2010.

The Advanced Manufacturing Center greeted exhibitors and visitors as they entered the West Building at McCormick Place. The display delivered a new dimension and a new direction for advanced manufacturing including an interactive virtual reality presentation, a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 aircraft engine, and multimedia displays exploring trends and technologies being adopted by leading manufacturers.

This year, IMTS management hosted the first-ever Industry Inspiration Day to kick-off the all-new IMTS Industry & Technology Conference. On Monday, renowned experts from the aerospace, medical, automotive and energy industries presented the keynote program on manufacturing innovation to an overwhelming audience of manufacturing professionals. From Tuesday through Friday, conference participants attended sessions that explored five topic tracks including materials engineering, machining technology and trends, alternative manufacturing processes, metrology and plant operations.

Another exciting new addition to IMTS 2010 was the Manufacturing Museum. Visitors to the museum were treated to a spectacular retrospective of manufacturing technology. The display included a self-guided tour of machinery and artifacts from different points in the history of industrial development that were on loan from the American Precision Museum, and a “social media encounter” in which visitors video-recorded their experiences and thoughts about manufacturing.

The NIMS Student Summit introduced students and educators to career opportunities in manufacturing through hands-on learning and networking with industry professionals. The Student Summit combined an interactive Career Development Center with a dynamic self-guided tour of the nation’s greatest technology and manufacturing exhibition.

From the Association for Manufacturing Technology at

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