As mentioned before in this space, the bi-annual International Machine Tool Show (IMTS) is back in Chicago (September 8 – 3th). I’ll be in the Gear Technology booth (N-7214; North Hall) occasionally, to rest and visit with readers and the staff. My enthusiasm for this great event has remained high since my first visit back in 1977, but my stamina for walking the vast “Disneyland for Engineers” isn’t what it used to be. Ample periods of rest and conversation will be needed to allow a full appreciation for the new machines and technology on display.
As a youngster, IMTS attendance was an opportunity to get a glimpse of how parts might be made in the future. We had very few computer-controlled machines in the shop back then; we barely had access to computers in development engineering. Skeptics thought we “might” invest in a few “template” lathes, but computer-controlled lathes and milling machines were the stuff of science fiction — not prudent capital spending. And gear grinding? We still had faith in our through-hardened products and almost resented having to switch to carburized, hardened, and ground gearing.
Within five years, reliance on our huge inventory of manual turret lathes came to a screeching halt; NC lathes could out produce them by factors of eight or ten to one. Ground gears were the rule — not the exception — in customer specifications. It was a new day in the gear industry, and those who attended the IMTS shows in preceding years were hardly surprised.
I don’t know what “emerging” technology will be the star of IMTS 2014, but I plan to learn what I can about 3-D printing; grind burn and crack detection; water jet cutting; and new gear cutting techniques — in between rest periods in Booth N-7214, of course. We are looking forward to getting feedback from readers on how to make sure Gear Technology stays relevant for your company in the years ahead — no matter where the technology takes us.