(Crain's) — The International Manufacturing Technology Show came to McCormick Place last week, the city's biggest convention of the year by exhibitors and attendees.
Nearly 2,000 companies from around the world and more than 90,000 attendees filled the convention center with some of the latest innovations from the manufacturing sector.
New this year to the IMTS was a job center run by Rochester Hills, Mich.-based CNC Jobs aimed at helping skills-hungry companies find workers in a shallow pool of qualified labor. (CNC refers to computer numerical control machine tools, which help turn computer-designed specs into finished products.)
"There is not an unemployment issue in this country," said CNC Jobs director Robert Lawson, who estimates that the company posted between 500 and 1,000 new manufacturing jobs from companies that came through the center, many from the Chicago area.
"We have all the jobs we can handle. It's under skilled that we're dealing with here," he said. "It's all kinds of maintenance, application loading, programming, pneumatics, hydraulics — a lot of the basics."
With a more local twist, Hyundai WIA America presented a new F400 CNC machine to the Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center at Chicago's Wilbur Wright College, which will be used for training its students for jobs in the production sector.
Humboldt Park was one of 43 schools to apply for the donation.
"They will come into a school and see a nice, modern-looking machine and realize how exciting it is to program a machine like this," said Dave Parker, marketing manager for Hyundai WIA America. "If more students see this and they're given the opportunity to understand it better, more students will pursue this as a career."
Among the other emerging technologies on display at the show was a handful of "additive technology" machines, which use a series of lasers to build products up the Z-axis in a machine as opposed to inefficiently whittling them down from raw metals and leaving large amounts of waste.
The practice is used for a small portion of the manufacturing sector, especially on medical, dental and aerospace products, said Tim Shinbara, technical director for AMT.
"Things that used to be restrictive in subtractive manufacturing have now been opened up, so geometries that designers have been wanting to go and build can actually be realized today," he said.