This week, for the 35th time, Eastec - the East Coast’s largest annual manufacturing event - was held in West Springfield, Mass. The show's organizer, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, was concerned that an entire week of rain and chilly weather would hold the expected attendance of 11,000 down, but this was allayed as cars started filling the parking spaces early on Tuesday and continued for the first two days.
This was the first Eastec since the recession turned the corner and the US manufacturing economy started its remarkable recovery. New England has responded more slowly than the national average, but you wouldn’t know it from the crowded aisles in the five show halls that featured over 900 exhibitors.
I attended because Eastec is a showplace for industrial laser systems exhibitors, especially those with laser marking equipment, of which I counted 24 companies showing markers powered by: fiber, solid-state, CO2,and diode lasers. Other suppliers showed laser welding, cladding, and microprocessing equipment.
I spoke at length with representatives of more than half the laser exhibitors and received almost uniform consensus that business had turned around during 2010 and that growth was continuing, for some at a record pace, into 2011. And the laser systems exhibitors, even those experiencing modest growth, were optimistic that 2011 would be a good year for their business.
Admittedly my survey was heavy with marking system suppliers, an industrial laser segment that historically has experienced double digit growth every year but one. Laser marking applications cut across the entire manufacturing sector so, in that respect, its success this year may be a stronger indication of the overall health of the manufacturing economy here in the US.