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Electronics world meets in Munich

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Even in this age of e-commerce, there’s still no substitute for live demonstrations and the chance to talk face-to-face with suppliers. And that means it’s out of the office and into the exhibition hall. But how do you ensure that everyone you want to see will be at the event you choose? The answer is to choose one of a handful of genuinely international events. One of the best is electronica (www.electronica.de), organised by Messe Muenchen , and held in Munich, Germany.

The 20th International Trade Fair for Components and Assemblies in Electronics takes place at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre from 12 to 15 November 2002. Because of the extension works at the centre not all the exhibition halls will be available, but nonetheless, 2,897 national and international exhibitors will be presenting their innovations and systems solutions to the world’s engineers in 14 halls. The organizers are estimating an audience of 85,000 visitors of which around 27% are expected to come from countries other than Germany.

Global centre of gravity

The leading silicon vendors don’t agree on much, but they are unanimous that electronica provides the best single forum to present their visions of the future. All the major suppliers and manufacturers have adopted ambitious stances for November’s show; and their commitment to the event is a good recommendation for an overseas visitor.

The show has become a centre of gravity for major companies from across the world because of the globalisation of the electronics industry. An FPGA used in Kobe, for example, is the same as one employed in Houston or Melbourne. The major manufacturers have been quick to realise that senior engineers with the real buying power are fewer in number and higher in influence. The result is that they save their best for the events that draw this exclusive group of potential purchasers. And that makes electronica increasingly important to Australian and NZ electronics companies and their senior engineers.

The exhibitors’ decision is reinforced because statistics have demonstrated that visitor numbers at regional events are stagnating. While it’s unlikely that national distributors will pull out of established local events, there is a tendency for manufacturers and principals to concentrate only on the largest international exhibitions.

The draw of electronica is such that the show is huge, which, paradoxically, can present problems for a new visitor. Fourteen halls filled with the cream of the electronics sector’s products can deflect an unwary visitor away from his main purpose. Fortunately, the show organisers have arranged the layout so that particular elements, for example the semiconductor exhibitors, are close to each other. All printed information is in both German and English, and the exhibitors are arranged into distinct sectors, clearly labelled so that a visitor can focus on their own area of interest.

Each hall is identically airy, clean, and light, so there is no need for the exhibitors to “jostle for position”, as might be the case at other events. If a visitor is specifically interested in a particular technology he can gather information, witness live demonstrations and speak to virtually every supplier from across the globe at this world-leading venue. Many companies will be unknown to Australasian visitors who don’t make it to Munich, yet they could well be selling the perfect solution to an entrenched design problem.

Once the scheduled business is out of the way, electronica represents the opportunity to update on the rest of the industry. And when it’s time for a few minutes relaxation, the atrium, the fair’s “green axis”, is directly accessible from all halls.

Tracking technology trends

The organisers say that this year’s electronica will act as an international barometer: an event where innovations and trends are presented, and where “the industry gains new impetus”. Attendance looks set to remain stable, in spite of the difficult market situation.

”Electronica is the number one communications platform for the electronics industry because it develops with it,” claims Dr Joachim Ensslin, managing director of Munich Trade Fairs International. “It takes up technological developments and integrates them into the trade-fair layout. It reflects the entire spectrum of electronics, so exhibitors and visitors benefit from a large number of synergies.”

In the spirit of this communication, a highlight of the first day will be the traditional discussion forum: Top-level representatives of the international electronics industry will discuss the topic ”Semiconductor Industry: who are the future creators of demand?”

Apart from providing comprehensive coverage of the electronics component spectrum, electronica 2002 plays host to three special sectors: automotive innovation, embedded systems and micro electronics mechanical systems (MEMS).

The Automotive Innovation user forum will be located in Hall C2. The main fields of emphasis are applications for telematics, bus systems, safety and accident prevention and the 42V electrical system. The 3rd International Congress for 42V PowerNet, with the title ”ready for mass production”, takes place from 12 to 14 November in the International Congress Centre, Munich.

The last electronica exhibition, in 2000, featured a separate sector for embedded systems. This time it will occupy the whole of Hall A3. In addition, the Embedded Systems Congress will take place in from 11 to 13 November.

The “World of MEMS” focuses on how microsystems are becoming an enabling technology, with an above-average rate of growth. Mobile phones, tyre-pressure monitoring systems, or fibre-optic data transmission, for example, are incorporating integrated mechanical, electrical and optical structures.

Apart from these special areas, electronica is now divided into 17 segments, each a “community” in its own right. The largest area is occupied by semiconductors, followed by passive components and connectors. Electromechanical components have been split into interconnection technology, cables and switches. The last group also includes relays. Further new segments are electronic design, test and measurement, housing technology and servos and drive elements.

The place to be

Despite the obvious enthusiasm of the organisers and exhibitors, times are tough and justifying a visit to an overseas show—especially one 15,000km away—is increasingly difficult. Or is it? Precisely because times are tough makes an excursion potentially more important. Capital equipment suppliers, component manufacturers and test & measurement companies among many others, are focussing their efforts on this one event; and the next one isn’t until 2004.

For the cost of an air ticket and five nights in a hotel it’s possible to take a snapshot across the entire industry; something that’s almost impossible anywhere else. The end result is an excursion that’s a lot more cost effective than it might first appear. Travel in and around Munich is cheap and efficient by European standards, and there is even an airport shuttle that takes visitors to the Trade Fair Centre free of charge.

The trend towards consolidated major trade fairs gathers momentum, and in the electronics sector electronica holds an enviable position. European engineers have appreciated this for years, but the distance results in a mere trickle of Australasian visitors. This is unfortunate, because the suppliers to the industry have demonstrated a united front in saving their best for this exhibition, and that’s unlikely to change. By not visiting, Australian and NZ engineers are missing the chance to see the leading edge electronics technology that can’t be seen anywhere else.

Further information www.electronica.de

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