Part of the record Fabtech 2013 checks out the latest in welding equipment at McCormick Place in Chicago. Fabricating and finishing equipment were displayed in an adjacent exhibit hall—a total of 650,000 square feet of exhibits.

Fabtech 2013 assembles “expo-nential” success—with 40,667 reasons for it

Dec. 1, 2013
Blowing away the previous attendance record, annual manufacturing technology event visits Windy City with innovation on display

A RECORD CROWD of 40,667 visitors strolled the aisles of Chicago’s McCormick Place to view the latest machine tools and manufacturing services during the Fabtech 2013 expo November 18-21.

The largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event in North America, Fabtech 2013 attracted 1,573 exhibiting companies and had 650,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“While breaking our own records is impressive, most important were the reports we received from attendees and exhibitors,” said John Catalano, Fabtech show co-manager. “Attendees were impressed with the record size and scope of the show and the number of new products and innovative technologies on display. Exhibitors were enthusiastic and report that sales activity was brisk and leads were plentiful.”

Attendees and exhibitors in Chicago also raised more than $15,000 for the victims of the severe storms and tornados that devastated Washington, Illinois and other areas of the state the day before the show opened.

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 “We send our condolences to the residents of Illinois, our host state for Fabtech 2013, and we know that many are struggling to recover from the physical and economic damage caused by these storms that hit on a set-up day for the show,” said Catalano. “Some of our exhibitors and attendees were directly impacted by this tragedy, and we wanted to show our support. We are continuing to collect donations and encourage the manufacturing community to contribute.”

The five Fabtech co-sponsors represent a wide variety of expertise and include: SME, the American Welding Society (AWS), the Fabricators & Man­ufacturers Association, International (FMA), the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), and the Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI).

Fabtech 2014 will be held on November 11-13, 2014 in Atlanta, GA. Additional information can be found at

Extreme enhancements. Koike Aronson, Inc./Ransome, has made a series of upgrades to its Versagraph Extreme integrated thermal cutting machine. The new Versagraph Extreme features improved gearbox resolution, increased torque and very low backlash, and a larger and stiffer main beam for less z deflection and greater load carrying capabilities. The Extreme also features heavy-duty rails, a heavy-duty rack, and a module design that allows the operator to add a bevel or other equipment without making major changes.

The Versagraph Extreme is available in cutting widths ranging from 72 to 288 inches. Up to 10 oxy-fuel stations and up to 4 plasma stations, including dual full-contour plasma bevel stations, can be configured. Maximum rapid traverse speed is a very fast 1,400 IPM.

It cuts both ways. ESAB Cutting Systems will demonstrated its new Hydrocut LX waterjet shape cutting machine, a combined waterjet and plasma cutting system.

The Hydrocut CNC shape cutting machine uses the patented combination of thermal and non-thermal processes operating on the same gantry, allowing the machine to cut with the high accuracy of waterjet where needed, but employ the high speed and low cost of plasma whenever possible. By combining waterjet and plasma on the same machine, both tools can be used on the same parts. High precision contours can be cut with waterjet, while non-critical contours can be cut with plasma. This patented system allows users to obtain precise cuts when needed without sacrificing speed on every cut. Parts that are suited for the waterjet-plasma combination can be cut in a fraction of the time, resulting in dramatic cost reduction and productivity increase when compared to waterjet cutting alone.

ESAB also introduced a family of inverter-based welding machines that can be used for AC/DC GTAW (TIG) and SMAW (Stick) welding. The new Heliarc uses inverter technology, which delivers significantly increased energy efficiency and functionality in a package that is lighter and smaller than an old SCR technology machines and competitively priced versus other AC/DC inverters.

Easy-to-achieve, optimized arc settings enable the operator to weld aluminum using a pointed tungsten. The tungsten remains pointed improving arc starts, heat input and arc stability, thus assuring high quality welds. Heliarc’s pulse current allows for smaller heat affect zone, better control of the weld pool, and less plate deformation.

Emphasizing aluminum welding. Lincoln Electric had a number of products for truck body and trailer manufacturers, including this sample of a trailer sidewall. For example, its new Gem-Pak bulk packaging system is designed specifically for aluminum MIG wire. The packaging system uses glass gems rather than a payoff ring to control the release of wire. With reduced tangles, this engineered system helps increase production without an expensive external payoff device. The Gem-Pak bulk system is available in 275-pound and 300-pound boxes that include an integral pallet that is fork-lift ready. The box for is 100% recyclable.

Lincoln introduced the Power Wave® Advanced Module designed to increase flexibility for manufacturers by expanding their welding capabilities. The module has alternating current (AC) welding capability to run aluminum processes, including shielded metal arc, metal inert gas (MIG), pulsed MIG, tungsten-electrode inert gas (TIG) and Surface Tension Transfer (STT). With STT welding capability, the module can also help welding open root gaps with high frequency inverter technology. STT is a controlled MIG short circuit transfer process that uses current controls to adjust the heat independent of wire feed speed, resulting in superior arc welding performance, good penetration, low heat input control and reduced spatter and fumes. The Advanced Module reduces burn-through and increases wire feed speed and cleaning. Also, it incorporates a high frequency starting mode that can be controlled at the wire feeder or power source user interface.

The company also introduced its new Weld Sequencer program. Weld Sequencer shows a picture and explains where to add the welds step-by-step. The benefits of the Weld Sequencer include

• The welding power source parameters, such as voltage, wire feed speed and others, are automatically set for each discrete weld, helping to ensure that the operator performs an optimal weld on the part.

• Because each weld may be best performed using different weld parameters, it is sometimes difficult, time consuming or perplexing for the operator to manually make these changes at the machine or wire feeder. The Weld Sequencer makes the parameter changes automatically and tracks the operator’s action to confirm that each weld was performed.

• The Weld Sequencer tracks time, wire feed speed, voltage and other parameters while comparing against the predetermined optimal path. Then, the actual performance is scored, which helps to determine if the part was correctly assembled.

• The software includes the ability to monitor additional control issues, including badge scanning confirmation,
correct consumable confirmation and other functions.

New bug. Bug-O Systems displayed its new K-Bug 3000, a digital, compact oscillating fillet welder. The K-Bug needs no track, instead running directly on the workpiece. The controller offers a choice of five weaving patterns and comes with a wireless remote control. Brad Mutscher and Jeff Nelson.
A clean shave. AlcoTec Wire Corporation displayed its 5XXX Series NT aluminum welding wire—a bulk welding wire that is virtually free of shavings. Shavings are usually collected in the liner, but can also accumulate on drive rolls and contact tips. Clogged liners often result in increased tip and liner replacement, downtime, and re-work. NT (new technology) is used to produce an aluminum welding wire that will not clog torch liners and offers improved feedability, says Thom Thompson.
Breathing easy. RoboVent Products Group displayed its Vortex collector, an air filtration system that creates a circular airflow pattern in a plant to clean ambient air. A complement to source-specific collection, the Vortex System uses 8-12 nozzles that can be adjusted to maximize the efficiency at which air is collected and filtered. RoboVent personnel engineer the system to meet the specific needs of the plant. The Vortex is especially effective when source capture of airborne contaminants isn’t possible due to large or unusual manufacturing operations or when overhead cranes limit the available ceiling space. No ductwork is required, a feature that lowers installation costs.
Cordless punching. Hougen Manufacturing demonstrated a new cordless punch that can put a 19/32-inch hole in quarter-inch steel. The electro-hydraulic punch operates on a standard Makita 18-volt battery.
Right angle. Tiger Angle, a new product from TigerStop, delivers automated material length positioning and compound mitering for complex cuts such as compound miters. TigerAngle is integrated by TigerStop and is equipped with the company’s automated length positioning system. This allows the TigerAngle to be used solely as a stop in a set point operation, or used as a push feed operation. Additionally, the miter saw has been retrofitted with TigerStop drives for automated miter adjustments.
Under control. The Model Semi-Paxy CNC controlled plat positioning and punching system is shown here mounted on a Geka 110 ironworker. Compatible with all Geka automated machines, the controller shown here is mounted on a pedestal that swings out of the way as required. The positioning system has a positioning tolerance of +/- 0.0003 inches. Representing the company are Aitor Rodriguez and Don Letourneau.
Nonferrous? No problem. The new Scotchman SUP-500 NF saw specializes in cutting nonferrous materials. The upcut circular cold saw cuts up to six-inch materials at a 45-degree angle. Standard features include safety hood with safety switch so that the saw will not run with the hood up. 
Punch it or burn it. Amada’s new ACIES punch/laser series of combination machines provide scratch-free processing of complex sheet metal parts. This innovative series also features automation and tool change options to suit virtually any production need. The ACIES series boasts extremely fast hit rates, stable processing, versatile forming and the unlimited shape cutting flexibility of a laser. Standard features include nozzle cleaner, and slug removal system. Tool changer provides a centralized tool location for up to 86 tools.
High-speed braking. The HG 8025 is the latest generation of high-speed press brakes from Amada America. A servo/hydraulic hybrid drive system provides speed and accuracy, as well as energy efficiency. Adding to the performance is software such as SheetWorks—a 2D and 3D modeling package that generates auto-batch processing based on 3D accociative drawing elevations and flat blank drawings that can be prepared automatically.
Fly like an Eagle. The Whitney fiber laser is touted by its manufacturer as the world’s fastest laser. The 6 kW fiber laser accelerates at six times the force of gravity. Whitney is part of MegaFab, Rockford IL.
New ways. The Titan III features new linear ways in the Y-Axis, along with a new rack and pinion design. Wider end trucks allow for the electrical cabinets to mount within the truck for better protection against the harsh cutting and heat environments as well as providing a cleaner look to the machine. Wider end trucks with maximum guide roller spread further stabilizes the X-Axis motion. The new Titan III can be configured with high definition plasma torches, oxyfuel torches and even a fiber laser head. It can cut material up to 14’ wide with a machine motion accuracy of +/- .010”.
Controlling the spray. Spray Systems Inc has developed proprietary software that works with an Allen Bradley controller to paint applications with the company’s spray booths, says Boris Orelliana.
New fiber laser. Trumpf’s solid-state laser cutting machine, the TruLaser 3030 fiber, is a 2D laser that is able to cut up to 3/4 inch mild steel, 5/8 inch stainless steel and aluminum, and 1/4 inch copper and brass. With three kilowatts of power and a one micron wavelength, it cuts thin sheet metal, mild steel in all sheet thicknesses, non-ferrous or highly-reflective metals.

The enclosed frame ensures absolutely no laser light escapes, while its large certified safety windows allow the processing area to be clearly visible at all times.

The TruLaser 3030 fiber was shown with LiftMaster Compact and PartMaster. Capable of handing material while the machine is in production, the LiftMaster Compact achieves high-speed material handling in a minimal footprint. With the PartMaster, processed sheets are automatically transported to the sorting station, increasing sorting productivity by 30%.


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About the Author

Bruce Sauer | Editor

Bruce Sauer has been writing about the truck trailer, truck body and truck equipment industries since joining Trailer/Body Builders as an associate editor in 1974. During his career at Trailer/Body Builders, he has served as the magazine's managing editor and executive editor before being named editor of the magazine in 1999. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.