If you missed last week's FABTECH in Atlanta, you missed a lot — many new product introductions; outstanding educational offerings; an opportunity like no other to network with fellow fabricating and forming professionals; having your photo taken for the cover of an industry publication; Sonny's barbeque and Chick-fil-A (unless you're lucky enough to have them where you live); southern hospitality; a piece of The FABRICATOR®'s 40th anniversary cake; and so much more.
FABTECH 2010 was a huge, happening event. I found myself at the start of the show thinking: So little time and so much to see. And despite my aching feet, I didn't see half of it. But what I saw was impressive, and I want to share some of my observations from the first half of the first day to give you a glimpse of what you missed.
First up for this editor was a press conference with Hypertherm, which showcased the company's brand new HyIntensity™ Fiber Laser HFL015 system, which combines laser and plasma cutting and is the first system of its kind in the industry, and the HyPerformance® Plasma HPR800 that allows for cutting thick stainless steel and aluminum with the same system.
The company also introduced the Powermax65® and Powermax 85® with four new torches. These systems feature Smart Sense™ technology that automatically adjusts the gas pressure according to the cutting mode and torch lead length.
I'm all for anything that makes a product easier to use, as long as the quality is not compromised. Editors in attendance were treated to a demonstration of the Powermax 85 cutting ½-in.-thick steel, and to my admittedly untrained eye, the cut quality was excellent.
TRUMPF Inc.'s booth was bustling with activity. An exhibitor across the aisle commented to me that he wished his booth had 1/10th the activity of the TRUMPF booth. One of the reasons for so much activity has to be the fact that the company brings its machinery to the show and runs it. There's nothing quite like seeing a press brake, bender, laser cutter, or punching machine in operation. Every time I passed by the booth, large groups were gathered around the TruPunch 3000, which features a skeleton-free processing option that is reported to increase material efficiency by an average of 10 percent, save energy and space and eliminate the need for scissor tables, sheet skeleton pallets, and removal grippers.
Confession time: While this innovation is very impressive, I have to confess that I'm a people person foremost — not a techie. That's why the most memorable part of my visit with TRUMPF is Applications Engineer Joe Troiani. Joe spent a considerable amount of time talking with my fellow editors and me about the TruLaser 1030 that has been expanded to include a fiber model with solid-state laser power. Joe knows his stuff, and he's a true believer in this technology. His knowledge of and passion for it are remarkable. Now what's really remarkable is that this non-techie understood his explanations. If there's ever a casting call for a new Mr. Wizard, Joe's the man!
Fiber lasers also were a topic of discussion at the Bystronic booth where Head of Product Management Frank Arteaga introduced the BySprint Fiber 3015, which marks the company's first production series model of a laser cutting system that employs fiber-laser technology. Its introduction coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first working laser apparatus.
Suitable for cutting steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and non-ferrous metals, such as copper and brass, the machine processes metal sheets that range up to 0.160-in. thickness, and the laser source provides power enough to process sheet materials as thick as 0.500-inch.
Arteaga shared his insight into the future of the fiber laser market. He does not expect fiber lasers to replace CO2 lasers, but he does expect to see a 50-50 mix in the not-too-distant future.
CO2 does a better job in thicker materials, and as TRUMPF's Troiani said, there always will be people with a bias toward one technology over another, even though the other might perform better. People …
The MetoKote booth was home to one of the best attention grabbers at the show, a bright-red MINI Cooper and Phil Wicks, driver of the red MINI in the original "Italian Job." The company's products protect this and other automobiles and various metal products. I sat in a highly comfortable chair in the MetoKote booth (my feet and I thank you) chatting with President and CEO DeWayne Pinkstaff about mikroKote, a compact, modular, and flexible e-coat system introduced at the show. The system is designed to help manufacturers of small-to medium-size parts have an in-house e-coat system without the space, investment, and operational concerns of traditional coating systems. The company installs, runs, maintains, and services the machinery for as long as the fabricator requires. There when you need it — gone when you don't. Talk about convenience.
This is just a glimpse of a small timeframe spent at the show and doesn't begin to cover all I saw and experienced. I can't do the event justice in a blog post. You had to be there. If you weren't, plan ahead to be there next year in Chicago. You'll have to wait a few years for Sonny's, Chick-fil-A, and southern hospitality, but I'm thinking you'll be far too busy in Chicago to miss them! Hope to see you there.
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