JIMTOF 2018 breaks new records

The 29th Japan­ese Inter­na­tion­al Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) was held from 1 to 6 Novem­ber 2018 in Tokyo and broke a num­ber of records. The main top­ic of this year’s event was “CONNECT by Tech­nol­o­gy of the Future”. Accord­ing­ly, the Inter­net of Things (IoT) and con­nec­tiv­i­ty played cen­tral roles. As usu­al, the VDW was on hand to rep­re­sent the Ger­man machine tool indus­try.

The lat­est JIMTOF was a resound­ing suc­cess: 838 (2016: 720) exhibitors, includ­ing 140 from abroad, pre­sent­ed their prod­ucts and ser­vices in the twelve halls of the “Big Sight” inter­na­tion­al exhi­bi­tion cen­tre in Tokyo. The exhi­bi­tion cen­tre has a gross area of over 98,400 square metres, 49,779 square metres (2014: 49,581) of which (net) were tak­en up by 5,531 (2016: 5,509) stan­dard “booths” of 9 square metres each.

The total vis­i­tor time was not avail­able at the time of going to press. How­ev­er, the dai­ly vis­i­tor sta­tis­tics from the penul­ti­mate day of the fair showed an increase of approx. 5 per cent, mean­ing that the trade fair man­age­ment was opti­mistic that it would exceed the mag­ic thresh­old of 150,000 vis­i­tors this year (2016: 147,602). The num­ber of for­eign vis­i­tors (2016: 11,533) had already seen a 6.5% increase by the penul­ti­mate day of the event.

The total num­ber of exhibitors in Japan once again includ­ed around 70 Ger­man machine tool, tool or com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers, either attend­ing in per­son or rep­re­sent­ed by their Japan­ese agents. The VDW rep­re­sent­ed the whole of the Ger­man machine tool indus­try on an exhi­bi­tion stand pro­vid­ed by the Japan­ese asso­ci­a­tion JMTBA. As in pre­vi­ous years, a news sheet was issued in Japan­ese espe­cial­ly for the trade fair. Con­tain­ing the most impor­tant facts about the indus­try as well as a list of exhibitors, this was very well received by the vis­i­tors.

Eight exhi­bi­tion halls were devot­ed to machine tools and com­po­nents, while four oth­er halls fea­tured tools and acces­sories. As always, the focus was on tech­nolo­gies for ultra-pre­ci­sion machin­ing, sur­face struc­tur­ing and the superfin­ish­ing of func­tion­al sur­faces. Addi­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing has also become well estab­lished, with these tech­nolo­gies increas­ing­ly being inte­grat­ed into sup­pli­ers’ reg­u­lar ranges.

Great inter­est in Inter­net of Things
In 2016, infor­ma­tion on the Inter­net of Things (as “Indus­try 4.0” is known here in Japan) was to be found almost every­where in Japan, but this was fur­ther sur­passed at the 29th event. Prac­ti­cal­ly every stand adver­tised the IoT activ­i­ties and ser­vices of the respec­tive machine, tool or com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­er. In an “IoT Chal­lenge for Con­nect”, the Japan­ese asso­ci­a­tion JMTBA con­nect­ed over 300 machines to a cen­tral visu­al­i­sa­tion sys­tem at the trade fair. On clos­er inspec­tion, how­ev­er, it soon emerged that no detailed infor­ma­tion was pro­vid­ed. The con­nec­tion had been set up by the major con­trol pro­duc­ers and lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers with their own IoT plat­forms: there was no real, sus­tain­able and open con­nec­tiv­i­ty. A fur­ther major buzz­word on many stands was AI (arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence) – for process con­trol, for exam­ple. Here, too, the answer to the ques­tion of how much “gen­uine” AI the appli­ca­tions actu­al­ly con­tained was in many cas­es not clear. Nev­er­the­less, the con­cept attract­ed a lot of atten­tion.

The VDW used the fair to con­duct numer­ous dis­cus­sions about the con­nec­tiv­i­ty ini­tia­tive umati – with its Japan­ese sis­ter asso­ci­a­tion JMTBA, the Chi­nese asso­ci­a­tion CMTBA and numer­ous exhibitors. There was great inter­est in the com­mon open com­mu­ni­ca­tion stan­dard based on OPC UA, which is cur­rent­ly under devel­op­ment. Mit­subishi Elec­tric was recruit­ed as a new con­trol-sys­tem coop­er­a­tion part­ner, and lead­ing Japan­ese machine man­u­fac­tur­ers also expressed inter­est in and will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in umati.

Exhibitor feed­back main­ly pos­i­tive
Dis­cus­sions with Ger­man exhibitors revealed that most com­pa­nies viewed the trade fair as a suc­cess. As usu­al, how­ev­er, expec­ta­tions were shaped by the com­pa­nies’ expe­ri­ence of doing busi­ness in Japan, which remains a unique and chal­leng­ing mar­ket.
Exhibitors were pleased that the trade fair organ­is­ers had adopt­ed a tech­nol­o­gy-ori­ent­ed lay­out this time. Stand loca­tion sat­is­fac­tion lev­els rose accord­ing­ly, although the con­fined space of the exhi­bi­tion cen­tre left much to be desired.

The next Jimtof is sched­uled to take place in an unusu­al slot, this time from 7–12 Decem­ber 2020. The rea­son for the sig­nif­i­cant­ly lat­er date is that the Big Sight Exhi­bi­tion Cen­tre will serve as a media cen­tre for the Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games in 2020.

Author and Pho­to: Dr. Alexan­der Broos, VDW

Categories: 2018, November