Forge Fair 2019, North America’s largest forging-industry trade show, was held in late May. The Forging Industry Association (FIA), which organized the event, claimed that overall attendance of nearly 2,000 people broke previous Forge Fair records.
The show was held at Cleveland’s Huntington Convention Center, the same modern venue that held the exhibition and conference in 2017 and 2015. It was announced that Forge Fair 2021 will be held May 18-20 in Detroit’s Cobo Center.
Forge Fair opened with a brief welcoming speech by FIA President Jim Warren. In a change from the previous two Forge Fairs, each day of the event was opened by a keynote speaker. On the first day, the keynoter was Jeremy Bout of Edge Factor, which creates cinematic media that addresses workforce challenges and business and career building.
After the keynote speech, the exhibit floor was opened to attendees, by which time all the exhibitors had their booths ready for floor traffic. Some meals and beverages during the event were served on the exhibit floor and sponsored by major participating companies. This format gave exhibitors and attendees a chance to conduct business over a light meal.
After lunch on the exhibit floor, the technical program began. It was kicked off by the FIA Marketing Committee’s presentation “Forging 101 – Why Forgings?” All subsequent technical presentations were held in six concurrent tracks of 25-minute presentations. The six concurrent tracks were categorized as follows: Presses & Hammers, Heating, Tooling & Materials, Facilities & Processes, Software Simulation and Automation. The technical program consisted of more than 60 papers.
Forge Fair 2019 was different from previous years in that each day began with a keynote speaker. During his talk, Bout spoke of entering the manufacturing industry, his relationship to it and how it inspired Edge Factor, which provides regional solutions to national workforce development challenges. He used a number of cross-metaphors to describe the way he saw the world of manufacturing. In one example, he portrayed machine-tool manufacturers as “surgeons of steel.”
“Edge Factor empowers communities across North America by telling manufacturing stories through filmmaking,” Bout said.
Dr. Amy Elliott, a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, science TV personality and additive-manufacturing (AM) expert addressed the breakfast crowd on Wednesday before the exhibit floor opened. Dr. Elliott, who received her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, spoke extensively about AM, its real-world applications and its potential applications in markets ranging from automotive, aerospace, medical devices, food, fashion and general manufacturing. Additionally, she cited some of AM’s benefits as keys to the success of the process. For example, it costs about as much to produce a complex part as a simple one with AM. “Complexity is free,” she said of the process. Her presentation ended with a brief panel discussion with Q&A from the audience.
Keynote headliner Rocky Bleier completed the guest speaking program on Thursday morning. He proved to be a well-prepared and engaging speaker and was a friendly presence on the exhibit floor during the rest of the morning. Bleier, a 16th round NFL draft pick in 1968, went from Notre Dame to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was also drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Vietnam, where he injured his leg and was told he would never walk again. He spent months in the hospital, but through determination and hard work he not only walked again but rejoined the Steelers. He worked his way through the practice squad and into a starting role, where he became an important part of the Steelers’ dynasty of the 1970s, winning four Super Bowl rings that he brought along to show attendees. “We’re all in the hope business,” Bleier said. “All of us.”
There is nothing like the experience of a trade-show conference to gather an international group of presenters, exhibitors and attendees. Forge Fair 2019 was a record-breaking event, having attracted nearly 2,000 total attendees. The fair was well-organized, and the keynote speakers added some variety to the program.
See you in two years, when Detroit hosts the event.