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Wide Eyed Observations from IWF 2022

By Jen Nix, Thursday, September 8, 2022

The first IWF show since 2018 took place last month (August 20-24) at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. With the 2020 show having been canceled due to Covid, no one was quite sure what to expect from this year’s show. Would it be smaller than it had been in prior years? Would people and companies be clamoring to see what’s new in the world of woodworking? The answer was definitely the latter.

Having not been to IWF before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew there would be a lot of wood processing equipment, other CNC companies, and specialized cabinetmaking software companies exhibiting, but I hadn’t realized the scale of some of this machinery until I was there seeing it all in one place. Now I say “one place” but that doesn’t mean it was a small place. On the contrary. Four halls within the Georgia World Congress Center, chock-full of exhibitors with so many different things to show to the attendees that sometimes it was difficult to decide what to look at first! Each day, upon our arrival and departure from the convention center, we took the time to walk down different aisles so that we could catch a glimpse of some of the things that a variety of exhibitors had at the show.

What did I see? What didn’t I see? I saw tiny things, like dowels for putting shelves and cabinets together. I saw sheets of veneer and tiles of wood composites. And machinery… did I mention the machinery? There was all matter of equipment, from tools to determine moisture content of a piece of wood to saws that were making mincemeat of huge logs, making it look like cutting through a log (or really tree trunk) with a diameter of 8+ feet was like slicing through butter. Calipers to measure material thickness, huge machines for turning your corrugated cardboard into packaging. The robotics on display were mesmerizing. Smaller machines using an articulating head to rotate material, larger machines that did everything at the push of a button. Machines and systems that were as big as a house whirred along doing all sorts of things.

Jim shows attendees the automatic tool changer (ATC) on the ShopBot Desktop MAX ATC.

Meanwhile, at the ShopBot booth, we were debuting our new Zeta gantry tool, showing off a lower bed height, carousel tool changer, and 9-position drill bank, just to name a few of the new features. We also had both a ShopBot Desktop MAX and a ShopBot Desktop MAX ATC on display that people stopped to look at and ask questions about: “Is that really a tool changer on that small of a tool?” (A question we were asked many times… and the answer is “yes”!) “How does that edge clamp work? “Can I buy the plans to create that joinery shaped like teddy bears somewhere?” But the Zeta tool was definitely the star of the show. It was rather mesmerizing, watching the tool methodically drill holes with the new drill bank, and then cut cabinet part after cabinet part with precision.

Joe and Buddy talk to a crowd of folks watching the new Zeta CNC in action.

Custom teddy bear joinery shapes created with the Edge Clamp Joinery Jig.

While I didn’t have an earlier IWF show to compare it to, veterans of the show had a similar takeaway from it as I did — people are back out and wanting to see what’s out there to help start or grow their businesses.

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