LOS ANGELES — WESTEC, a biennial event produced by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), was held September 12-14, 2017 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

An overview

On the show floor, 539 exhibitors displayed their innovations in advanced manufacturing technologies, including optical 3D measurement, precision machining and tooling,  automation, software, advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and 3D printing for the aerospace, medical, industrial machinery, and consumer goods industries.

In addition to performing technology demonstrations at the booths, industry leaders participated in various panel discussions and educational Huddle Ups in theaters around the exhibit hall. The event also offered a Student Innovation Tour and Machining Academy for younger attendees, many of them students, to learn more about the future of manufacturing and the current state of Industry 4.0.

New to WESTEC this year was the Smart Manufacturing Hub, a show floor area presenting the latest technology in automation, advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Los Angeles was, once again, the perfect setting to bring manufacturers  together, as the West Coast has become one of the fastest-growing manufacturing regions in the country. Citing the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), WESTEC reports that California has almost 36,000 manufacturing firms that employ nearly 1.3 million people, and the state exported almost $144 billion in manufactured goods in 2015. Considering that the state is home to SpaceX, Tesla, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard, not to mention technology giants Apple and Google, continued growth seems inevitable.

Event highlights

  • Learn & Lunch: Obtaining valuable information didn't stop at lunchtime. WESTEC attendees had the option of attending several industry-themed luncheons, including "Integrated LA," "Change Management in Manufacturing," and "Prepare for Launch: The Technology and Skills for Today's Space Industry." 
  • "Shop Talk" with the stars of the hit History Channel series, Counting Cars: In an onstage interview, Kevin Mack and "Horny" Mike Henry discussed their show and work at Count's Kustoms (a one-of-a-kind hot rod and chopper customization/restoration shop in Las Vegas), followed by a meet and greet with fans. 
  • The world's first 3D-printed car: At the Local Motors/Mouser-Strati display, attendees learned from the original team members themselves how the car was conceived, designed, and built. Fun fact: The printing took 44 hours to complete and consists of 50 individual parts, far less than a traditional vehicle (which is manufactured with roughly 30,000 parts).
  • Three inspiring keynotes: 
    • "Why Cognitive Matters in Manufacturing"
      • Anirban Bhattacharyya, associate partner in Cognitive Process Transformation- Digital Operations and Cognitive Manufacturing at IBM, explained how manufacturing shifted at the intersection of IT and OT, and how manufacturers can best access, control, and leverage all the possibilities of Big Data and Industry 4.0.
    • "American Built: Inspiring the Next Generation of Manufacturers"
      • Titan Gilroy, executive producer and star of TITANS of CNC and the CEO of TITAN America MFG, shared his expertise in running an elite aerospace CNC shop and getting young people excited about manufacturing.
    • "Industry Transformation — Reinventing How Vehicles Are Built"
      • Justin Fishkin, chief strategy officer at Local Motors, revealed how his company has leveraged o-creation, crowd-sourcing and micro-factories to transform the way vehicles are designed and built.

And some news

  • ASTM International: A new online journal, "Smart and Sustainable Manufacturing Systems," is ready for your papers. To learn more and submit, please visit astm.org/SSMS
  • Autodesk: The new AutoCAD 2018 software includes enhancements and new features such as external reference path repair and recognition of SHX font files.
  • HP: The company announced HP Z8 G4, a new workstation they call "future-proofed" in order to support the growing fields of virtual reality, machine learning and advanced design. 
  • LiquidPlanner: The online project management software company is now courting manufacturers with their easy-to-use program, accessible via iPhone, iPad, and Android operating system-based devices. 
  • Universal Robots: At the booth, personnel demonstrated the new UR5 robot arm with Actin simulation software, part of the company’s Universal Robots+ platform featuring plug-and-play products for its robot arms.
  • Verisurf: The new Verisurf 2018 Software comes with several new features, including universal CMM compatibility, an increase in I++ CMM probing speed, a report manager, added programming shortcuts and productivity features, and an intuitive Windows interface.