I don’t know if it was the Las Vegas rain or the underground Tesla shuttles, but IFPE 2023 felt like an alternate reality. With more than 1,800 exhibitors spanning 2.8 million square feet, the joint CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE event was larger than life and full of energy, technology, and — best of all — people.
Industry experts from around the world celebrated innovation and introduced new products that help engineers solve today’s problems and work toward sustainability goals. Though electrification won the homecoming crown this year, hydraulics will surely remain in the court for decades.
Now, that doesn’t mean fluid power technology will stay the same. Every IFPE booth I visited demonstrated that the industry is experiencing a mindset shift. People are thinking differently about problems and how the problems are changing. No one’s trying to reinvent the wheel, but engineers are working on practical innovations that help move the needle and address tomorrow’s concerns.
Zero-emissions was a hot topic during press conferences and casual lunchtime chatter, yet there’s still confusion about what “net zero” really means. Because this ambition seems relatively abstract and far away, many OEMs are breaking up the lofty, long-term goal into attainable, short-term targets. For instance, Terex reiterated its commitment to a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2024, and more than 60% of its current solutions are already electric or hybrid. Similarly, JCB’s “Road to Zero” can be traced back to 2004 with its incremental progress of reduced-emission engines to its present-day hydrogen combustion engines and mobile hydrogen-powered machines.
Coinciding with environmental goals, companies are reshoring operations and investing more in their supply chains. They’re planning to bring production closer to key customers and rethinking their entire manufacturing processes and technologies — perhaps a silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, Aidro has been machining hydraulic valves and manifolds since 1982. As of 2017, the Italian company has invested in additive manufacturing to design and produce 3D-printed components with complex geometries. In 2021, Aidro joined Desktop Metal to produce intricate hydraulic parts that cannot be crafted with other methods.
Walking booth-to-booth, I discovered that many fluid power manufacturers and OEMs are quietly adopting 3D printing where it makes sense. Though shy with details for fear of revealing a competitive advantage, whenever I pointed to a product on display and asked, “Is this one 3D printed?” I often received a smile and brief confirmation that the company is using additive technology to expand product offerings and gain more control over its production.
Overall, IFPE showed that it’s an exciting time to be in the industry. All this change forces engineers to approach challenges in new ways that chart paths toward more sustainable futures. I look forward to returning in 2026 to see how things evolve and reacquaint with my new fluid power friends.
Filed Under: News