Monday, November 8, 2010

Fabtech: the buzz was on fiber laser cutting

Trade shows, especially machine tool shows, are strange animals. They seem to have a life of their own, taking on an atmosphere that may echo current events such as EMO Hanover opening the day after 9/11, where a pall hung over the fairgrounds. Shows can also reflect the economy, such as Fabtech 2008 in Las Vegas, where exhibitors were euphoric, still riding a high that resulted from an overheated EuroBlech a few weeks earlier. I recall watching the crowds using the escalators at that convention center and commenting about their smiling faces.

Sometimes, exhibitors are reserved and cautious as a show starts, mirroring the popular feeling in the streets outside. At Fabtech Atlanta, the show opened on election day, and inside the convention center, it was like nothing was happening outside. I spoke with large numbers of exhibitors and attendees and never once did the subject of the elections come up until I prompted a response relative to opinions on business conditions for 2011.

I haven’t seen the numbers and show analysis for Fabtech yet so these observations are mine, but similar to many I spoke with. Fabtech 2010 was a success: Some said a good show; some, including most exhibitors, didn’t hesitate to call it a great show. Certainly the traffic on the first two days was satisfactory, relieving concerns that the Southeast fabricating markets were not booming as they were three years prior. Before the show I had heard reservations by exhibitors and attendees, a common one being the markets in the Southeast were still in recession and that the region could not support a large fabricating show.

Well “they” were wrong again, as they were three years ago. The action in exhibits that were showing advances in laser cutting technology were heavy at all times. I happened to overhear a group of three attendees standing in line for refreshments, checking their watches to insure they had time to see a last fiber cutting demonstration.

Fiber laser cutting seemed to be a common thread among those I spoke with; whether out of curiosity or advanced knowledge, I gathered that this technology rang a bell with a large sector of the visitors who were looking at laser cutting.

So, being as provincial as I can, let me say that those showing fiber laser cutters at Fabtech had a great show. As for those who chose not to do this year's Fabtech for one reason or another, have faith because I heard many comments about those of you who have or are about to have a fiber laser cutter from show attendees.

In my September/October review of fiber lasers cutters on the market, I speculated on the fiber laser's impact: Would it just pirate sales from CO2, add to the markets, or do a little of both. The jury is still out, but it is obvious that fiber laser cutting caused a buzz, a term that is out of vogue but appropriate. For me that’s enough because it seemed to be a reason for the crowds at this year's Fabtech, with the follow-up is in the hands of the sellers.

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