MILAN, ITALY -- Housed in the new slick, sprawling Fiera Milano Exposition Centre in the heart of Milan, EMO Milano officially kicked off yesterday to a bustling international crowd of manufacturers, students, and buyers.
This year's show is almost preposterously large.
Official stats record more than 1,600 registered exhibitors, whose gigantic machine tools and innovative new products and designs are spread across 12 buildings and nearly of 1.3 million sq. ft. of exhibition space. Organizers expect 150,000 visitors to pass through these halls by the end of the week, eyeing all of the latest gear and (hopefully) investing heavily in everything they see.
This seems to be the driving point of the event here. After years of financial crisis, Italy is at a crucial stage of its economic recovery. Officials hope that this EMO iteration – the first in Milan since 2009 – will help demonstrate to the world that Italy is officially back in the game.
This message was delivered clearly, and repeatedly, at the opening ceremony/ribbon cutting event that marked the opening of the show.
Waving his arm over the expanse of technologies and machines sprawling across the estate, Giorgio Squinzi, President of CONFINDUSTRIA, told the crowd through an interpreter, "This is a strong development in the recovery of Italy." The show, its size, and its pending success in Italy, he said, are an indication that "the Italian economy is once again capable of coming to terms with global demand."
"We are aware that there are still problems, of course," he added. "But EMO Milano is a strong sign of growth and recovery after months and months of crisis."
Manufacturing is key to this recovery, the panel agreed, and machine tools in particular are a critical element of the Italian manufacturing sector. With over 500 Italian exhibitors at the show – more than any other single country – the panel all seemed to promise that the fine Italian equipment that would greet us in the show would demonstrate the seriousness of the Italian rebound and its readiness for global competition.
It's impossible to speak to the totality of the show and the thousands of products on site. One day in I still haven't seen even 10% of the floor.
However, there was one product premiere yesterday that clearly demonstrated Squinzi's point.
Monday morning, Italy-based Comau unveiled a new machining center that pushes manufacturing style to a whole new level.
You wouldn't buy an ugly car, so why would you buy an ugly machine?"
-- David Wilkie, Director of Design at CNH Industrial
It's impossible to overstate the amount of styling that went into this thing. It is straight out of the future – part WALL-E, part Apple, with plenty of sci-fi futurism sprinkled in.
The market will inevitably decide whether the functionality of the machine matches its stylistic appeal, but you certainly can't deny its beauty.
“Comau wanted to do something more modern that reflected the quality of the products that they are manufacturing,” explained David Wilkie, Director of Design at CNH Industrial in a formal release. “The outcome is a transparent, illuminated box, within which the engine or its components are built. The use of transparent materials was inspired by modern glass structures, aquariums and Plexiglas furniture.”
In his presentation at the unveiling, he made this point even clearer.
"You wouldn't buy an ugly car, so why would you buy an ugly machine?" he asked. "Why work in a dirty, ugly factory?"
The new design, and its focus on extreme style, continues a trend we can see across all of the millions of feet here. The function-first aesthetics of yesterday's machines are gone. Instead, machine makers are putting out increasingly beautiful, slick, machines designed to attract new, millennial users in a format they know and trust.
Comau, however, has taken this one step further, not so much making a beautiful machine as an industrial work of art.