The 2023 edition of the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE) and co-located CONEXPO-CON/AGG can best be described as having an atmosphere of excitement around it. After the 2020 show, which ended a day early and had several exhibitors pull out due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear attendees and exhibitors alike were ready to be back together to discuss the latest technologies and trends.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) which manages CONEXPO & IFPE, the latter in conjunction with the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), reports the 2023 show broke records. During the show's run March 14-18 over 139,000 attendees from 133 countries visited the Las Vegas Convention Center. Over 2,400 exhibitors from 36 countries showcased their latest construction equipment, fluid power components, and other related technologies and services over the show's massive 3 million square feet (10.5% larger than 2020).
According to AEM, these figures helped make the 2023 edition the largest trade show in North America. And from my very sore feet at the end of the week, and the many other events I've attended over the years, I can confirm this CONEXPO & IFPE was the largest I've attended yet.
"IFPE also broke the record for the size of the show, with the greatest total square feet of exhibit space ever recorded, and the highest number of NFPA members among its exhibitors," said Eric Lanke, President and CEO of the NFPA, in the association's press release announcing show figures. "The buzz on the show floor was intoxicating, with high quality attendees there to see the latest electrified and connected fluid power products."
"The success of CONEXPO-CON/AGG & IFPE 2023 is a testament to the resilience and strength of the construction and fluid power industries, which has continued to adapt and innovate despite the challenges of the past 3 years," said Marcia Klein, Treasurer of Casappa Corp., and show chair of IFPE, in AEM's post-show press release. "We're proud to have provided a platform for industry professionals from around the world to connect, learn, and discover new solutions for improving their businesses and the world we build."
From the many conversations I had throughout the show, one particular comment stands out which best sums up the direction the fluid power industry is headed, and could also apply to the construction and other sectors represented at CONEXPO & IFPE — for hydraulics to survive, they need to be smarter, more efficient and provide better control.
This comment was made during a discussion with Damien Fetis, President of Fetis Group, a design and system integrator specializing in engines, transmissions, hydraulics and electronics. Fetis' statement also encapsulates some of the key themes of IFPE 2023 which included increasing use of sensors and software to improve precision and control, as well as data collection, and efforts to improve efficiency due in large part to the push toward electrification.
The Push Toward Electrification and Digitalization
While traversing what accumulated to several miles (I have the Fitbit stats to prove it) of the CONEXPO & IFPE show floors, there was a lot of great technology and conversations with those in the industry to take in. Although our team couldn't see everything, as much as we tried, it was evident that OEMs and component suppliers alike have spent that last 3 years making great strides in technology advancements.
The construction and fluid power industries are not typically thought of as being innovative, but as those in these segments know, nothing could be further from the truth especially in recent years as electrification, automation and other major trends have entered the markets. IFPE in particular showcased the impact these trends is having on hydraulic and pneumatic designs. Though we've covered them before, I wasn't quite prepared for how strong the impacts now are on the industry.
Electrification was probably the most evident trend at IFPE and CONEXPO. Several fluid power manufacturers exhibited solutions to aid with electrification efforts while many OEMs unveiled new battery-electric machines, including concepts and those ready to enter the marketplace. At the last show I could probably count on one hand the number of manufacturers exhibiting electrification related products but this time around it was too many to count, demonstrating the rapid growth and desire for more sustainable options. Like bauma, held in October 2022, CONEXPO & IFPE 2023 was likely a turning point for electrification in the construction and fluid power industries.
Component suppliers like Danfoss, Bosch Rexroth, Parker Hannifin, Poclain Hydraulics and many others exhibited the electric powertrain solutions they've developed, such as electric motors, inverters and controls. By developing these technologies themselves, they can not only ensure their continued relevance as the construction and other heavy equipment industries move to electrification but also use their hydraulics expertise to ensure all systems will work together as required. Hydraulics will still be necessary in many cases, but changes will be needed to guarantee they continue to provide the desired performance in electric machines.
On the subject of necessary design changes, this was another area in which several manufacturers demonstrated their technological development efforts. Efficiency improvements in particular are a key focus for many hydraulic component manufacturers. Providing more efficient operation will be key not only for electric vehicles but the construction equipment industry in general as OEMs and their customers are becoming more concerned about overall machine efficiency to help reduce fuel use and emissions.
Also evident during my time at the show was the growing integration of sensors, software and other digital technologies. With this move toward more digitalization, an array of benefits can be achieved such as improved system monitoring and maintenance. For the latter, there is a greater emphasis being applied to oil condition monitoring and the ability to help end use customers become more proactive about their maintenance practices due to the amount of data which can be collected, analyzed and sent to maintenance personnel.
Proactive maintenance has been a topic of discussion over the several years I have now been covering the heavy equipment and component engineering field, but now feels like it is actually becoming viable due to the technology advancements taking place and ability to integrate digital solutions into so many parts of a machine, such as the hydraulic and pneumatic systems.
IFPE and CONEXPO 2023 were too filled with advanced technologies and trends to properly cover in-depth in a single piece of content —don't worry, there will be a lot more coming in the following weeks — but if there was one key takeaway from this year's event it would be the fluid power industry, and the heavy equipment and other markets it serves, is in a period of innovation which will bring about changes to the performance, maintenance and capabilities of hydraulic and pneumatic systems.Visit our IFPE channel for even more coverage from the show, more of which will be added in the coming weeks!
That said, I can't wait to see what's in store for the next IFPE and CONEXPO currently set to take place March 3-7, 2026.
We want to hear from you!
Did you attend IFPE & CONEXPO 2023? If so, what were your favorite things to see at the show? What further technology developments do you see on the horizon for the fluid power industry? What do you think will be the top trends at IFPE 2026?
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