If a manufacturing process can be automated or digitized, it will be demonstrated at IMTS 2024 – The International Manufacturing Technology Show, which runs Sept. 9-14 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.   IMTS offers the opportunity to explore thousands of innovative automation and Industry 4.0 solutions throughout 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space, including the new Automation Sector, accelerated by SPS – smart production solutions. Here are just 10 highlights of the digital manufacturing solutions showcased at IMTS. Easy First Steps “From reshoring initiatives and workspace optimization to production capacity and workforce shortages, multiple issues are often at play when companies are looking to invest in automation technology,” says Doug Burnside, vice president of North American sales and marketing for  Yaskawa Motoman (IMTS booth #236601). “For smaller companies, collaborative palletizing, and welding are two easy options for first steps into automation. The systems deploy rapidly and have user-friendly pendants.”   Data-driven Insights To unlock untapped potential and drive innovation through data-driven insights and intelligent automation, Google Cloud (IMTS booth #236709) delivers AI and machine learning solutions. The company can help IMTS visitors understand where and how to apply generative AI to product design, research, production, supply chain, customer service, and other manufacturing processes. Automated Inspection For fully automated execution of measurement sequences, ZEISS will feature the ScanBox 5130 (IMTS booth #134302), which features an ATOS 5 high-speed blue light 3D sensor mounted on a robot. Users with little to no robotics experience can easily plan and program measuring sequences. With a geometric digital twin of the physical part, users can compare data against the CAD model, visualize GD&T deviations, and display inspection results for detailed trend/SPC analysis.  Fulfilling Results “You simply can’t talk about the advances in automation and machining without talking about them together, and IMTS is where everyone comes together,” says Scott Harms, president of MetalQuest Unlimited. “For example, at IMTS 2022 we committed to the machining and automation strategy used to fulfill a new contract in a conference room above the OKUMA booth (IMTS booth #338500) where our FANUC (IMTS booth #338919) representative was also present.”  Lights Out for the Win For applications requiring extended unattended run-time, pallet pools may be the most efficient automation solution.  “One of our customers launched a new product that ramped up very quickly,” says co-owner Brian Olson, co-owner of Olson Custom Designs. “We were able to put in a Kitamura (IMTS booth #338520) Supercell-300G 5-axis horizontal machining center with a 20-station pallet pool on the floor and ramp up our production to meet their needs.” Once fully loaded with material, the cell can run for 35 hours unattended.  Visualize Success Cobot providers have “a hyper focus on simplifying the cobot integration experience and improving the cobot operator experience,” adds Will Healy, global industry leader – welding, Universal Robotics (UR) (IMTS booth #236131). At IMTS 2024, conversations will center around how artificial intelligence, vision systems, and cobots come together. Loaded Results For automation without the expertise of a third-party system integrator or a drain on limited internal resources, HM Manufacturing selected a Turn-Assist robot from RoboJob USA (IMTS booth #338982).  “This new robot aids our Okuma lathe in more capacity and allows for larger production runs,” says HM Manufacturing President Nicole Wolter.   Chad Sesing, VP/plant manager at JTD Enterprises was “impressed by automatic pallet changers from Midaco (IMTS booth #339347) and how they easily adapt to our current Haas machines,” he says. “We were able to purchase one and install one on our Haas VF-2SS (IMTS booth #338100). We were glad we could see it in person at IMTS to understand how it would benefit us.” Gain Confidence “The TNC7 control will help end users to feel confident in automating their process,” says Gisbert Ledvon, vice president of marketing at HEIDENHAIN (IMTS booth # 339440). “This year at IMTS, we will demonstrate tool quality and tool life monitoring features using the TNC7’s integrated tool table database.”  HEIDENHAIN will also demonstrate the TNC7’s component monitoring and process monitoring capabilities. Component monitoring can detect events such as tool breakage or excess force on the spindle. Process monitoring captures the data for a sample path and compares subsequent  paths to this reference; deviations are graphically displayed so operators can pinpoint the location.   AM Reduces Lead Time Large-scale metal additive manufacturing (AM) technologies such as Directed Energy Deposition (DED) can replace forgings, castings, and tooling. These products typically come from overseas and with six- to 18-month lead times, and AM can shorten them to a few months or weeks.  Melanie Lang, co-founder and CEO of Formalloy Technologies (IMTS booth #433018) believes the trend of adding AM equipment to move work in-house is growing and will continue. “The last few years opened our eyes to the instabilities in our supply chain,” says Lang. “We can’t take delivery times for granted, the true country of origin for our products remains uncertain, and some sources are subject to geopolitical issues. Fortunately, we can apply technology to solve those problems.”   10. Finding Inspiration “Exhibitors in the Additive Manufacturing Sector are a great resource for finding end-of-arm tooling, inspiration for custom workholding, and other ways to keep equipment running 24/7,” adds Jacob Sanchez, an automation industry analyst, content creator, and IMTS 2022 attendee. “IMTS puts you in an automation mindset because you can find automation in all of the exhibit  halls.”  Register to attend IMTS 2024 and plan your visit. Use AMT’s Global Housing Solutions for the best hotel booking experience and room and price guarantees.  
Cobot providers have had a hyper-focus on simplifying the cobot integration experience and improving the cobot operator experience, such as through the easy-to-use pendant on this system from Universal Robotics. This fabricator obtained 24 hours of lights-out operation for more than a 600% productivity boost in machining.