ASSEMBLY magazine has been around since 1958. In that time, we’ve had lean years and great years. We’ve changed our name three times, and we’ve been bought and sold at least five times. We’ve survived tidal shifts in both U.S. manufacturing and publishing. (If you had told me 26 years ago that I would be spending 30 minutes a day on something called Twitter…)

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Through it all, one thing has remained constant: We’ve never lost our focus on providing superior information about the processes, technologies and strategies for assembling discrete parts into finished products, whether you make large things in small quantities or small things in large quantities.

Trade shows, too, have come and gone over the past 50 years. In 1974, in cooperation with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, we launched the first trade show dedicated to assembly technology. Called Assemblex, the show was held in Arlington Heights, IL, a Chicago suburb.

Like ASSEMBLY, the show was bought and sold many times over the years, the last two instances to different owners than the magazine. It, too, was renamed several times. Unlike the magazine, however, the show lost its focus over time. It became less about assembly and more about other aspects of manufacturing.

That’s when we had a grand idea: Let’s hit the reset button and launch our own event dedicated exclusively to assembly technology, just like we did 40 years ago. Now, after some 18 months of planning, The Assembly Show is just a month away, and it promises to be the must-attend manufacturing event of the year.

Buyers, Suppliers Converge

Thousands of manufacturing engineers and managers are expected to attend The Assembly Show in Rosemont, IL, this October to see the latest productivity-enhancing technology. Leading suppliers such as Bosch Rexroth Corp., Edgewater Automation, Graco Inc. and Weiss North America Inc. will be among the 126 exhibitors at The Assembly Show, which will take place Oct. 28-30 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

Through July, some 1,300 manufacturing professionals from a wide range of industries had already preregistered for show, including representatives from Applied Materials Inc., Bodine Electric Co., The Boeing Co., Broadwind Energy, Cisco Systems Inc., Cree Lighting, Deere & Co., Faurecia, Flextronics International, The Kohler Co., Medtronic Inc., Schneider Electric, Whirlpool Corp. and Yazaki North America.

“Through extensive research and industry polling, we concluded that both suppliers and users of assembly equipment want a space where they can focus solely on assembly, not intermixed with other areas in manufacturing,” says Tom Esposito, publisher of ASSEMBLY. “The Assembly Show will bring back the tradition of past assembly-only events.”

“We think the show is a great opportunity,” adds Bill Reed, director of marketing at Extol Inc., one of three suppliers of plastics joining equipment that will be exhibiting at The Assembly Show. “The trend of having multiple manufacturing events in one place wasn’t working for us. It basically diluted the customer base.”

Extol will be bringing spin welders, hot-plate welders, and infrared welding and staking equipment to the show. Reed says his company’s products reflect a growing demand for equipment that supports reasonably quick changeovers. “Production volumes aren’t what they used to be,” he notes. “[Flexibility] is the only way to justify capital equipment today.”

New Technologies

There are three reasons to attend a trade show:

  • to learn about industry trends and new ways of doing things.
  • to network with industry peers.
  • to see new technologies.

The Assembly Show should not disappoint on any of those fronts. Exhibitors will be unveiling a host of new assembly technologies at the show.

One of them is Hernon Manufacturing Inc., which will display its line of adhesives and dispensing equipment. Among the new products Hernon will bring to the show is a digitally controlled, benchtop meter-mix-dispense machine for two-component materials. Priced under $15,000, the unit allows engineers to vary the mix ratio from 1-to-1 to 1-to-100, says Edgardo Rodriguez, director of sales and marketing at Hernon. Servomotors control the metering of each part. Dispensing parameters are input through a user-friendly touch-screen control panel.

The company will also debut a new LED-based ultraviolet curing system; a UV-curing formed-in-place gasket material for automotive applications; and a structural adhesive for assembling composites in aerospace applications.

Hernon won’t be the only company displaying adhesives and the equipment to dispense them. The Assembly Show is hosting at least 12 other adhesives suppliers, including Adhesives Research Inc., Bioformix Inc., Dymax Corp., Henkel Loctite and On-Hand Adhesives. The show is also hosting at least 12 suppliers of dispensing and curing equipment, including Fisnar Inc., Lumen Dynamics, Nordson EFD, Sealant Equipment & Engineering, and MTA Automation Inc.

Those assemblers that prefer screws over glue will find plenty to interest them at The Assembly Show, too. For example, Ingersoll Rand will bring several new fastening products to the show, including the QX series of precision cordless tools.

These tools have a closed-loop transducer system that can operate either independently or in unison with the plant control system via a wireless system. The tools produce between 0.8 and 12 newton-meters of torque and can store up to 1,200 fastening cycles on board. They are powered by a 20-volt lithium-ion battery.

Engineers can input target torque; upper and lower torque limits; free speed; shift-down speed; angle; and direction of fastening. Three different fastening strategies are selectable: torque, angle and prevailing torque.

“It’s a real game-changer for fastening,” boasts Richard Campbell, vice president for product management and marketing for industrial technologies at Ingersoll Rand. “Traditionally, you needed lots of cables to get this level of precision. But this is a cordless tool. All the controls are right on the tool.”

Besides Ingersoll Rand, The Assembly Show is hosting at least 14 other suppliers of threaded fasteners and the tools and equipment for installing them, including ASG, Bossard North America Inc., Design Tool Inc., Desoutter Industrial Tools, Makita USA Inc., Mountz Inc., Panasonic Power Tools, and Phillips Screw Co.

While assemblers will see some familiar faces at The Assembly Show, they will spot plenty of new exhibitors, too. One of them is ECI Spinnomatic, a supplier of orbital forming machines.

The company will be bringing four machines to the show. The first, the TM23, is a general-purpose riveter. It has been used to assemble air bags, suspension parts, door frame seals, seat belts and industrial sprinkler heads. The second machine, the TM4, is for much smaller parts, such as medical devices.

The third machine, the TM 23 Magnum Hybrid, is ECI’s newest model. Intended for forming harder materials, the hydropneumatic machine creates 100 percent more force than the company’s standard pneumatic machines.

The fourth machine ECI will bring to the show is hardly new. In fact, it’s 35 years old. The still-functioning riveter was pulled out of production so that ECI could prove the durability of its designs, says Bob Wood, president of ECI.

At least nine other suppliers of riveters and assembly presses will also display their wares at the show, including Baltec Corp., FEC Inc., Gage Bilt Inc., Orbitform, Promess Inc., S-B Industries, Schmidt Technology and Tox-Pressotechnik.

Assembly Automation

Riveters and power tools are nifty technologies, to be sure. However, it’s the robots and automated assembly systems that inspire awe in even the most seasoned engineers, and The Assembly Show will have plenty for them to look at.

The Assembly Show features no less than 12 systems integrators, including ATC Automation, ATS Automation, the Doerfer Cos., Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing, ixmation North America, and Fusion Systems.

Riveters and power tools are nifty technologies, to be sure. However, it’s the robots and automated assembly systems that inspire awe in even the most seasoned engineers, and The Assembly Show will have plenty for them to look at.

Also exhibiting are 12 automation component suppliers, three conveyor suppliers, and seven robotics suppliers, including EPSON Robots, ATI Industrial Automation, Dorner Manufacturing Corp., Janome Industrial Equipment Inc., and IAI America Inc.

SCHUNK Inc., a supplier of grippers, actuators, indexers and other automation components, will be showing off several intriguing products. One of them is a servo-driven electric gripper that “is one of the closest products yet to a drop-in replacement for a pneumatic gripper,” says Jesse Hayes, automation group manager at SCHUNK.

“Normally, when you compare power density and speed of a pneumatic gripper vs. an electric gripper, there are trade-offs,” he explains. “With a pneumatic gripper, you get much more energy for the size of the product. Generally, an electric gripper is going to be double or triple the size of a pneumatic gripper, and it’s going to be slower.

“Our new electric gripper, the EGP, performs like a pneumatic gripper in terms of actuation time and grip force, and it’s only 1.5 times the size of a pneumatic gripper. It actuates off of digital I/O, so you just supply a 24-volt signal to open and close it.”

This article hardly scratches the surface of the myriad technologies that will be on display at The Assembly Show. I’ve not even mentioned the 13 suppliers of test and inspection equipment, the eight suppliers of wire processing equipment, or the eight suppliers of workstations. And, for those companies that would rather have someone else assemble their products, at least three contract manufacturers will be exhibiting at the show.

For more information on The Assembly Show, visit