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In a year when manufacturers everywhere are keeping a wary eye on the economy, exhibitors are optimistic and booth space reservations have met expectations, according to officials with the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Midwest show. Exhibitors seem to echo these sentiments. One manufacturer of fluid-handling components says that while 2009 is a tough year, they are guardedly optimistic going into the fall. “Interestingly, our trade-show experience has been good this year despite economic conditions,” says a spokesperson there.

Attendees at this year’s activities who are looking for ways to remedy a poor economy will get a chance to consider some new ideas at D&MM conference sessions. One such idea: exploiting compliant design principles to significantly reduce part count. So says University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Professor Sridhar Kota who will be presenting his principles for compliant design at an D&MM conference session. Kota has applied compliant design to products ranging from morphing wings for Gulfstream business jets to windshield wipers for Ford Expeditions.

A compliant mechanism is a single-piece flexible structure that elastically deforms without joints to produce actions such as force or motion transmission, motion guidance, or energy storage and release. Kota says a compliantly designed mechanism typically lowers costs because it eliminates parts such as springs, hinges, and lubricants. He also maintains that virtually any product with several mechanical parts performing a motion is a candidate for compliant mechanisms. And compliant mechanisms can be made with a wide range of materials including steel, aluminum, titanium, polymers and composites.

Other topics on deck for this year’s conference include designing with plastics, lean manufacturing, applying robots and vision, and sustainability. A track on quality will include sessions covering quality management, statistics, technical risk assessments, FMEA, and supply-chain management. Another track on medical design will look at medical product development, risk management for medical devices, and process validation for the medical device industry.

A free keynote on Wednesday at the show features life coach Will Marre speaking on a new leadership model that he says stimulates leaders to think of radically new solutions for challenges. Using case studies of his own clients, Marre will show how to discover a new set of competitive factors and a framework of leadership that yields a healthier company.

As in previous years, the event encompasses six shows: Design & Manufacturing Midwest, Quality Expo, Assembly Technology Expo, Medical Design & Manufacturing Midwest, Green Manufacturing Expo, and Electronics Midwest. Also on the show floor this year will be sessions on Lean Manufacturing and production. The aim is to demonstrate the importance of a data-driven approach to line design, the need to create an environment that supports Lean with the right equipment and infrastructure, and the tools to create a Visual Factory. Attendees will witness the step-by-step creation of the perfect Lean production environment, culminating in an actual build demonstration on an optimum Lean line.

The show and conference debuts Thursday Sept. 22 in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont (Chicago), Ill.