This time next week I’ll be walking the floor at McCormick Place, seeing what’s new, what’s unusual, and perhaps a little about what the future holds in metal fabrication.
Even after years covering FABTECH®, I feel like a kid at a candy store. Sometimes I think about what the industry will look like for my kid, decades from now. There are all sorts of pie-in-the-sky concepts out there. Will additive manufacturing make component fabrication and (especially) machining obsolete? Will smart nano-technologies allow for parts to “grow” themselves? Will I live out Star Trek, and tell a machine, “tea, Earl Grey, hot”--in a cool British accent, though I’ll have a French name--so it can conjure up a cup out of thin air? (Apologies to the non-Trekkies out there.)
Several technologies may not be so far-fetched, and a few of them will be on display at FABTECH. One I’m watching is laser blanking. The concept has been around for years. It has graced the pages of both The FABRICATOR and STAMPING Journal. Coil-fed laser blanking finally has hit the market in a significant way, and it’s probably here to stay—but will it remain a niche, or will it grow into something bigger?