Cutting Tool Engineering
January 2012 / Volume 64 / Issue 1

Regional shows the way to go

By Michael Deren

Recently, I caught myself looking longingly at machine tool ads in trade magazines. The kind of ads that show machines with bright, shiny sheet metal, painted with the latest glossy color combinations, and sexy curves, such as wraparound guards. And the ad copy boasted high cutting speeds and lightning-fast feed rates.

I’m usually not that attracted to these ads, so not knowing what was wrong, I visited the company doctor. He examined me and diagnosed me with a bad case of TSW—trade show withdrawal. He prescribed attending the next trade show and calling him in the morning. Fortunately, there was a regional show near Milwaukee called the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Technology Show (WMTS). I figured I would get a little fix.

In reality, my primary reason for attending the show was to meet our fixture vendor for a demo of the latest system that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) chips to distinguish programs and their corresponding fixtures, reducing the possibility of machine tool crashes. The system also monitors hydraulic pressure in fixtures.

Because I live in Wisconsin, I was able to drive to the event in about 45 minutes without paying any tolls or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. At five bucks, parking was a relative bargain. The show opened at 9 a.m. and I arrived about 15 minutes beforehand to avoid long lines. Getting my badge took all of 2 minutes because I was preregistered.

I walked inside where there were more than 200 exhibitors. There were displays for machine tools and accessories, cutting tools, CAD/CAM packages and more as far as the eye could see, as well as exhibits for job shops showcasing their expertise. The trade show also included breakfast forums, keynote presentations and free seminars.

It was great that you could cover the entire show in a single day, even if you talked with several vendors in-depth. I remember going to EASTEC when it housed exhibits in seven buildings and tents. If you wanted to see it all in a day, you had to wear your walking, nah, make that your running shoes. Last time I went to IMTS, I spent 3 days at the show and still missed some of it.

After I met with the fixture vendor, I walked the aisles. It was nice that exhibitors could talk about their products at length without the pressure of having to quickly finish speaking with one prospect in order to meet the next person waiting. The time they gave me was similar to the amount I’d expect to receive at their own showroom facilities.

Even vendors who I have done business with in the past were genuinely glad to see me—a friendly face in the crowd—so they could chat and see how business is going.

These small, regional trade shows are so much more relaxed and laid back than the large shows. A 3-day show like WMTS draws 6,500-plus visitors and has more than 200,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. On the other hand, the 6-day IMTS attracts more than 80,000 visitors and has about 1.1 million sq. ft. of exhibits.

If you ever begin to suffer from TSW, visit a regional trade show near you to overcome the symptoms. There’s the Canadian Machine Tool Show, Northwest Industrial and Machine Tool Show, Wichita Industrial Show and many others. You’ll be glad you attended. I know I’m feeling much better now. CTE

About the Author: Mike Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at

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