The three-day Fabtech show is held in Chicago in odd years, Cleveland in the even ones. According to the organizers, 18,000 people attended this mid-November show.

FabTech show floor, with a Lockformer coil line in the foreground.


CLEVELAND - Can you say sheet metal machinery? The annual FabTech show can, and does, in a number of fascinating ways.

The three-day show is held in Chicago in odd years, Cleveland in the even ones. According to the organizers, 18,000 people attended this mid-November show, and nearly 700 companies exhibited. Categories included: bending and folding; coil processing; cutting; finishing; lasers; punching; material handling; fabricating; etc.

The show is cosponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA).

Mood at the show was upbeat, with some of the usual observations, complaints, etc. Most said floor traffic on opening day was good, although a couple said it should have been busier. There were few complaints about the facility or the convention services, however. Most agreed it is always a good show, with a good mix of product. One exhibitor, from a welding company, said the mix is good because it brings in a wider spectrum of customers: "At a welding show, all we see are our competitors."

A coil processing and roll forming exhibitor said his company originally exhibited only in Chicago, but decided to exhibit every year since the Cleveland site also had proven to be a good draw.

A Detroit contractor, John Wolnowsky of the Tin Shoppe, said he was impressed at the size of the show and by two other things in particular he saw there. One was a bending and folding machine (Metalworking Inc.) for shelves and cabinetry. He also was amazed at the progress made in computer-controlled press brakes. "It used to be that you had to know how to operate the machines. Now you need to know how to use the computers that operate the machines."

Local contractor Mike Martin, Martin Duct Systems Inc., Cleveland, also liked the show. He looked at the new plasma cutters, primarily Lockformer but also Vicon and others, and liked the way they cut the metal without leaving burrs. He also liked the punch locks and die-stamped elbows, even reducers - the latter surprised him, although he said it probably shouldn't have. "I guess you can stamp just about anything," he said.

He was surprised there was little literature available at the show, but the use of electronic "card swipes" means he'll get what he is looking for later on in the mail. There is less clutter on the show floor that way, and exhibitors like it because there is less to haul and ship.