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Key Takeaways: FABTECH 2017

fabtech-logo-e1321041847942.gifThis past week more than 50,000 attendees and 1,700 exhibitors met in Chicago for the 35th annual FABTECH Exposition. The “one-stop-shop” event brings together suppliers and the latest industry developments related to metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing needs.

The four-day event was filled with thousands of exhibits, expert panels, educational programming and networking events. Amongst it all, several topics drew extra attention from attendees. The overall digitization of manufacturing, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, Google Glass Enterprise Edition, and effective strategies for success were amongst the most talked about topics – so we’ve summarized highlights for you here.

The Digitization of Manufacturing

It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular trends at FABTECH was the digitization of the manufacturing industry. The entire scope of digitization was covered at FABTECH this year, from automation and smart factories to the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and Industry 4.0.

By integrating physical machinery with the latest digital opportunities, customized and flexible mass production technologies can collect, share and aggregate immense amounts of data—and in doing so, improve efficiencies and scalability. As consumer expectations for quality, individualized products delivered quickly and at a low cost continue to surge, the manifestation of connected devices in the manufacturing industry will grow in step.

>> Related read: What the Rise of Industrial Robots Means for Manufacturers

3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

Anticipating the increased interest in one of the industry’s most explosive trends, FABTECH installed a new pavilion with 25 exhibits, daily presentations and events surrounding 3D printing and additive manufacturing. These revolutionary technologies enable businesses of all sizes to reduce process complexity and cost by mass-producing functional, customized products and parts.

FABTECH events specific to 3D printing questioned the digital, highly-customized landscape of manufacturing moving forward as the technology becomes more scalable, accessible and low-cost. Events geared toward additive manufacturing discussed the development of hybrid machines to bridge the gap between additive and traditional subtractive manufacturing, as well as the logic to effectively incorporate additive manufacturing into production processes.

>> Related read: How the 3D Printing Boom Benefits Metal Fabricators

Second Life for Google Glass

When Google Glass was initially released in 2013, it was positioned to become the next must-have technology accessory for consumers. Instead, it was received as intrusive and distracting.

Fast forward to today, where Glass Enterprise Edition (Google Glass 2.0) is being donned on the faces of thousands of factory workers across the country. This wearable device is thriving in the manufacturing industry because it provides workers with real-time information in a hands-free format, increasing their efficiency. For example, AGCO Corporation, an agricultural equipment manufacturer in Alabama, has used Glass to reduce machinery production time by 25% and inspection times by 30%, reducing the amount of manual, back and forth quality checks.

Cultivating Creativity and Innovation

Two of this year’s keynote speakers included Richard Rawling, co-host of Discovery Channel’s Fast N’ Loud series and founder of Gas Monkey Garage, and Matthew Luhn, one of the original story creators at Pixar Animation Studios. Although the presentations were independent of each other, underlying themes compare.

Rawling spoke to the creative elements necessary for success. He stressed that discipline, persistence and innovation are the keys to achieving success in the industry. Luhn emphasized the importance of creating a culture that encourages and nurtures new ideas and creativity. Luhn also stressed how important fear and failure are to the creative process.

>> Related read: 4 Science-Backed Ways Engineers Can Boost Creativity

Looking to stay ahead of the curve in manufacturing? See these related resources to make the most of every minute:

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