America’s manufacturing sector gained 14,000 jobs in February, according to the latest data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nine companies are exhibiting at Tech ManufactureXPO:

ATI Industrial Automation—Robotic accessories and tooling, including automatic tool changers, deburring tools, collision sensors and compliance devices.

Elite Engineering Inc.—Assembly process management software.

FARO—Computer-aided coordinate measurement machines and software.

Gagemaker—Tubing and casing gauges, rotary shouldered gauges, connection gauges, thread gauges and groove gauges.

Physicom Corp.—Sensors, signal conditioners, indicators, data acquisition systems, data collection equipment and automated test systems. Sensors include strain gauges, load cells, torque sensors, multiaxis force sensors, pressure transducers, transmitters and displacement transducers.

L.S. Starrett Co.—Calipers and other precision measuring tools, levels, electronic gauges, dial indicators, gauge blocks, granite surface plates, optical measuring projectors, vision systems and multisensor measuring systems.

Schunk Inc.—Grippers, rotary actuators, linear slides, robotic accessories, and pick-and-place equipment.

TE-CO Workholding—Tooling, jigs and fixtures for gauging, measurement and inspection.

Weiss North America Inc.—Rotary indexing tables, palletized conveyors, motor-driven pick-and-place units, cam- and servo-driven assembly chassis, indexing rings, machine bases and tool plates.

While that’s welcome news, says Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, it’s below what’s needed to meet President Obama’s goal of creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs in his second term.

“Washington needs to focus on a jobs plan,” says Paul. “It’s great to see the unemployment rate come down. But I’m concerned that manufacturing is lagging behind, despite all the lip service given to its resurgence. Smart public policies that support private sector job growth, particularly in manufacturing, can change this, but not if Washington isn’t focused on a jobs plan.”

Paul’s organization has outlined several steps that the president can take to meet his manufacturing jobs goal. You can hear those steps when Paul delivers the keynote address during ASSEMBLY magazine’s third annual Tech ManufactureXPO. The address will take place from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Eastern time. A live 15-minute question-and-answer session will be held immediately after the presentation.

A Virtual Alternative

Tech ManufactureXPO is a virtual trade show that will be held May 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time. ASSEMBLY is co-sponsoring the event with Quality magazine.

Tech ManufactureXPO will enable manufacturing professionals to attend educational sessions and interact with suppliers via their computer screens. It’s the online equivalent of a traditional trade show, featuring webinars, podcasts and “virtual booths.”

Participants can browse exhibitor booths, view product demonstrations, chat with company representatives, and collect information, such as brochures, data sheets and white papers.

Nine suppliers are exhibiting at the event, including ATI Industrial Automation, Physicom Corp., Schunk Inc. and Weiss North America Inc. In addition, hundreds of manufacturing professionals have already registered to attend, representing such major manufacturers as Baxter International, Boeing, Caterpillar, Emerson Electric, Ford, General Dynamics, Honeywell, IBM, Siemens and Whirlpool.

Last year’s Tech ManufactureXPO exceeded expectations for both attendees and exhibitors. Some 1,154 manufacturing professionals registered for the show, and 450 attended the event live. Of those who attended live, 25 percent spent 1 to 4 hours at the show. All totaled, 1,425 files—catalogs, podcasts and other materials—were downloaded from the show site.

The 28 companies that exhibited at the second annual Tech ManufactureXPO averaged 112 leads, 71 document downloads, four business card exchanges, 13 e-mail exchanges, 21 private chats, and 79 group chat posts. All totaled, 601 one-to-one chats took place between exhibitors and attendees.

Online Education

Besides the keynote address, educational webcasts will be presented by Elite Engineering Inc. and FARO Technologies Inc. Each webcast will last 45 minutes. A 15-minute question-and-answer session will immediately follow each presentation.

Dan McKiernan, president of Elite Engineering, will present “The Next Generation of Smart, Flexible and Lean Assembly.”

“Global competition is driving manufacturers to rethink their current production methods,” says McKiernan. “Changing customer requirements and shorter product life cycles are fueling the need for more agile and responsive assembly operations. With increased pressure to be more profitable, organizations are responding by implementing leaner assembly systems, boosting quality and improving asset performance.”

McKiernan will discuss his company’s eFlex Assembly software, a Microsoft .NET-based process configuration tool that tightly synchronizes activity between a factory’s enterprise resource planning system and plant-floor automation. Using data directly from the assembly process, the software quickly, accurately and repeatably rebalances PLC-controlled assembly lines. In his presentation, McKiernan will show how a major auto manufacturer attained world-class quality and flexibility in hours and days instead of months.

Brock LaHart, applications engineer at FARO, will present “Can’t Touch This: Inspecting to CAD Using Noncontact Technology.”

Many manufactured parts can benefit from CAD-based inspection. But what if you can’t physically touch the part you need to inspect? What if it has complex or free-form shapes? That’s where noncontact technology comes in. This webinar will explore noncontact inspection technology and how it can be used to obtain precise data on these types of parts. The webinar will include a live demonstration of how to perform a CAD-to-part alignment and how to compare the data received with the original CAD model.

How It Works

To attend Tech ManufactureXPO, engineers will need a computer running Windows (XP, Vista or 7) or Macs (Leopard, Lion or Snow Leopard). The web browser should be at least Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox 5.0, Safari 4.0 or Google Chrome 13. The media player should be at least Flash 10.

Pop-up blockers must be disabled, and cookies and JavaScript should be enabled.

After logging in, engineers will find themselves in the event lobby. There, engineers will find clearly marked entry points for various show locations, such as the exhibit hall and auditorium. A navigation bar running along the bottom of the screen provides quick access to all the locations.

The 3D exhibit hall has the look and feel of an aisle at a real trade show. Engineers can move to the left or right in the hall by moving the computer mouse. There is also a text-based exhibitor directory for those wanting to get to a booth quickly. Hovering over a booth will display more information about the company. Clicking on it will take engineers into the booth.

Just as they would at a real show, exhibitors will use their booths to distribute company and product literature, do presentations, and conduct demonstrations. Booths will be staffed with representatives to answer your questions.

For more information, visit