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Machine Tool Business Gears Up


Sellers of robots and other equipment for factories were optimistic at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago this week. James R. Hagerty

CHICAGO—Makers of factory-floor equipment predict an upswing in U.S. demand next year on an improving U.S. economy and rising sales of cars, appliances and jets, all requiring metal cutting and shaping machinery.

Machine shop operators crowded the floor this week at the International Manufacturing Technology Show, which drew an estimated 110,000 visitors through Thursday. Many were collecting price sheets and quotes in a sign a recent downturn may be grinding to an end.

“I’d like to get something going by the end of the year,” said James Martin, owner of Martin Sheet Metal Inc. in Cleveland, who was looking for robotic painting and welding equipment to make cabs for forklift trucks.

John Johnston, owner of Electro-Way Co. in Fraser, Mich., said he would be buying new equipment early next year. Electro-Way specializes in electrical-discharge machining, which shapes and forms metal through the use of electrical currents rather than grinding or drilling.

Mr. Johnston said his business has been booming recently from industrial customers that use Electro-Way to bore holes in very small metal parts.

Rising demand for precise parts for autos, commercial motors and the energy industry has Mark Mohr, president responsible for the Americas for Japan-based machine manufacturer DMG Mori Seiki Co. projecting his firm’s U.S. sales should expand about 4% this year and at least 10% in 2015.

“There’s a need [for equipment] out there,” he said while taking a break from customer meetings at the show. DMG Mori Seiki supplies metal cutting machines for auto makers and others. A shortage of capacity at some larger machining companies has them shipping work to smaller shops, boosting the need for machinery, he said.

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