Metalworking Rhythms

  Through years of evolution, nature has equipped many migratory animals with an internal clock. That instinctual clock is automatic, telling them where to be at certain times of the year or what they need to do at certain times of their lives. Almost unerringly, these biological clocks make sure important events

 

Through years of evolution, nature has equipped many migratory animals with an internal clock. That instinctual clock is automatic, telling them where to be at certain times of the year or what they need to do at certain times of their lives. Almost unerringly, these biological clocks make sure important events in the critters’ lives happen when and where they are
supposed to.

The metalworking industry is also driven by an internal clock. While it is less subconscious than the one nature provides its creatures, the pull is still pretty strong. The metalworking clock is set on a 2-year (biennial) cycle. Our clock fires up every even-numbered year in early September, creating an almost primordial need to be in Chicago, Illinois, at that time.

Like the swallows at Capistrano, the sea turtles returning to their home beach or salmon fighting their way up the Columbia River, as predictable as sunrise, the metalworking industry migrates in large numbers to its home ground—IMTS. Many of us remember and echo-locate times in our professional lives from past IMTS experiences. As a group, we tend to use shows as mileposts to help recall what happened when.

We also use these biennial time snippets as a measure of technological progress and to gage success. Since IMTS began in 1927, many of the technologies we take for granted first saw the light of day at an edition of this exposition.

In the mid 1950s, what became CNC was first displayed in Chicago. It was rudimentary, but sure had a future. Some of that future was on display in 1980 in the form of flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) that combined different machine tool types with workhandling equipment to produce complete parts. Today we call that early concept both cellular manufacturing and multitasking.

There is no way to predict what new technologies will come from a given IMTS. Progress simply doesn’t work that way. An idea triggers another and then another, and suddenly something brand new is conceived and applied to solve a problem.

It’s that anticipation of what can happen at a given IMTS that draws metalworking professionals to Chicago in even-numbered years. Sometimes technological lightning strikes, sometimes not. But being there when it does is what gives our industry its collective memory.