IMTS 2018 shows high procurement levels in North America
The IMTS (International Machine Tool Show), the largest and most important metalworking event in North America, took place in mid-September in Chicago. The US machine tool association AMT, the organiser of the event, captured the success with headlines such as “Booming manufacturing economy” and “Visitors have capital and are ready to invest!” A broad range of user groups in the USA indeed focus their procurement activities on the event. Increased demand for universal technology in the US is expected in the Q3 order figures. Investments in special equipment and projects are expected to be reflected in the Q4 results.
The economic environment and US economic policy have contributed to the success of the IMTS. The Trump tax reforms have freed up the necessary capital resources. The machine tool market is currently being driven by trends towards digitalisation, increased automation and additive processes. In addition, Boeing has a competitive advantage over its European competitor Airbus at present, which is boosting demand from the aircraft industry, especially the engine-building sector. The discussion about stricter emission values and the possibility of a rapid switch to electric vehicles are much less unsettling for US car buyers than for consumers elsewhere.
Major automotive orders placed in 2016 and 2017 have now been fulfilled. A structurally more balanced demand structure is therefore expected for 2018, which will be less dominated by the automotive sector. Nevertheless, in sharp contrast to the consequences of the diesel scandal in Europe and Germany, General Motors is planning to launch an eight-cylinder diesel model. Ford also plans to launch diesel models driven by engines equipped with more than seven cylinders, which will put a lot of power onto the road. The conclusion for the automotive industry in the USA is therefore that although moves towards electrification are foreseeable for lighter commercial vehicles, the effects in the passenger car sector will only be felt in the medium term at the earliest. And these, too, will then reflect America’s specific mobility requirements, with its associated vehicle sizes and engines.
Impact of the economy and fiscal incentives
Orders received from US machine tool manufacturers and specialist dealers rose sharply by 22 per cent during the first seven months of 2018. AMT describes the current development as “…outstanding in the face of market uncertainty due to trade tensions.” The German machine tool industry, too, is benefiting from this development.
In the current Global Machine Tool Outlook from VDW and Oxford Economics, which is about to be published, US machine tool consumption for 2018 is up more than 13 per cent on a dollar basis, having already grown by 8 per cent in the previous year. In 2019 it is expected to increase by a further 5 per cent. The production value in our sector’s most important US user industries will therefore rise by over 4 per cent in 2018 and just under 3 per cent in 2019 – a disproportionately low rate compared to the market volume for machine tools.
By comparison: for Mexico, a very moderate increase in consumption of less than 1 per cent (calculated in Pesos) is expected for the current year. In 2019, the growth is expected to stall even more starkly. Canadian machine tool consumption is expected to rise by 8 per cent in 2018, but only by just over 1 per cent a year later, according to forecasts.
IMTS 2018 breaks all previous records
The IMTS final report proclaims 132,316 square metres of net exhibition space, an increase of 4 per cent over the previous event. As in 2016, the four co-located shows of Deutsche Messe AG were fully integrated into the IMTS portfolio. The event was supported by exhibitors drawn from at least 450 companies/brands in the fields of automation and drive technology, surface technology, compression and vacuum technology, as well as industrial supplies, all looking for further system components. The previous record, set in 2000, was 131,537 square metres.
There was a total of 2,563 exhibiting companies, an increase of 7 per cent compared to 2016. The number of visitors, at 129,415, was 12 per cent higher than in 2016 and also significantly exceeded the previous record of 121,764 visitors in 1998. At that time, the dotcom hype was at its height. Irrespective of the pure visitor numbers, there were reports of many more deals being negotiated than at the previous event, as revealed in conversations with individual VDW members.
Projected on the basis of 2016, 113,600 visitors were recorded in the current year via electronic “pre-registration”. Ultimately, no one can say how many of these were actually present.
In addition, the AMT had invited around 20,000 (!) students and pupils to the event: no information was provided about their attendance.
The impression once again was that there were extraordinarily high visitor numbers in the first three days of the fair, which tailed off rapidly on Thursday and Friday, making Saturday seem rather superfluous. The West and East Halls enjoyed relatively strong attendance levels overall, however they remained behind those of the North and South halls, as they did at the previous event.
Focus and range of German exhibits
Additive manufacturing, hybrid processing, robotics and increased automation with a focus on new sensors and processors and digitalisation: these characterised the range of the exhibition and were the main topics being discussed. The VDW used IMTS 2018 as a platform for presenting its connectivity activities as prerequisites for Industry 4.0 to an international audience.
Superior multi-spindle machines with up to eight axles were among the highlights showcased by the German exhibitors. These can halve medical engineering cycle times, for example. Genuine 5‑axis milling machining in combination with highly flexible handling systems were among the machining centres on show, some robot-assisted and with large machining areas. Also featured were “heavy cuts” in challenging materials with no loss of accuracy, 5 and 6‑axis machining for high-precision grinding, milling and drilling functions in a single clamping, part recognition technologies for precision manufacturing in gear construction and, of course, systems for additive manufacturing.
The next IMTS will take place from 14 to 19 September 2020 at the usual venue – McCormick Place in Chicago.
Author: Gerhard Hein, VDW