Monday, April 22, 2013

Let’s grow LME

Could a "mini-Munich" be held in the US?

For several years, following the expansion of industrial laser system exhibits at the Munich laser show, World of Photonics, exhibitors and visitors from the US began to ask if a "mini Munich" could be held in their own country. Several European organizations expressed interest in the idea, and some aligned with US organizations to test the waters for such a venture. ILS was a participant in some of these activities.

The focus of these activities has been the question: could a free-standing laser trade show, perhaps supported by a technical conference, draw sufficient numbers of exhibitors and attendees generate the revenues needed to cover the expense of producing such a venture? Munich's World of Photonics is a massive effort with technical organizations coordinating with Messe Munich to make this biennial event a destination. Housed within the Messe Munich halls are exhibits that cover all aspects of laser technology, not just industrial material processing. At Munich, two Production halls provide space for many dozens of exhibitors showing their products and these halls are a beehive of activity for the four days of the show. At Munich, over 20,000 attendees fill the hall aisles. Walk-ins at most German trade shows are common so bustling attendance is the norm. Could that be duplicated in the US?

Here in the US, two major international laser trade shows, Photonics West and CLEO, draw hundreds of exhibitors in support of large technical conferences. Neither of these events are strictly an industrial laser show. Fabtech and IMTS are trade shows for industrial products and each has an industrial laser content, but not at the level of a Munich.

Stepping into this breech two years ago was the Laser Institute of America, which put together an event called, rather curiously, Lasers for Manufacturing Event (LME). Organized almost overnight in 2011 and situated in a convention center in Schaumburg, IL, LME got off to a modest start with technical sessions supported by an exhibition of several dozen industrial laser suppliers. Encouraged by this, the LIA moved forward to produce the second LME last year, along the same lines as the first, with the intent to size-up the exhibitor level to attract a larger walk-in attendance. This effort produced additional exhibitors, and the show attendance experienced a modest increase.

Thus, the Laser Institute of America (LIA)  has cranked-up its effort to make this year’s LME (September 11 to 12) a major destination for those in North America interested in industrial laser material processing. Here’s the rub, however. Unless new exhibitors support the show to make it a "mini Munich" it will not attract the attendance numbers needed to keep the event growing. Simply, you have to invest to make this show a "must see".

To all those who asked for an industrial-laser-only event, here it is. Support it. To those who are reticent to exhibit at the same venue as their competitors, I say, wake up, that's what makes Munich so attractive, and you like that. Trade shows like Fabtech and IMTS have pavilions where competitors exhibit shoulder to shoulder, amiably and profitably.

Here's a clarion call to all industrial laser systems suppliers in North America: if you want a "mini Munich," join with your peers and make LME that event.