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5/20/2020 | 2 MINUTE READ

SME recognizes leaders in aerospace and defense manufacturing

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Boeing technical fellow Kurtis Willden, Aligned Vision and the Boeing Co. received 2020 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Awards.


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On May 12, professional manufacturing association SME (Southfield, Mich., U.S.), along with its Composites Manufacturing Tech Group, recognized an industry leader and two prominent composites manufacturing companies with its 2020 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Awards.

Kurt Willden Boeing wins excellence in composites manufacturing award

Boeing Technical Fellow Kurtis Willden. Source | SME

Kurtis Willden, technical fellow at Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill., U.S.) is the recipient of the 2020 J.H. “Jud” Hall Composites Manufacturing Award. First awarded in 1986, the J.H. “Jud” Hall Composites Manufacturing Award recognizes innovation in solving issues related to production and applications development; it acknowledges significant contributions that reduce costs and waste streams and improves quality and efficiency.

Willden was recognized for his successes in the development and implementation of processes and equipment for large composite aerospace structures. According to SME, Willden is a highly skilled engineer and innovator whose ideas are used in production, saving tens of millions of dollars annually and millions of dollars in nonrecurring cost avoidance in the last 10 years at Boeing.

“During the next 20 years, our industry will see a strong demand for aircraft production to double the current 20,000 aircraft and replace half the existing aging air fleet,” Willden says. “Our aerospace factories around the world will significantly rely on our collective work in composites to improve processes, materials and quality, and to increase the throughput and efficiencies of our production systems.”

Throughout his career, Willden has received 47 patents, published more than 20 technical papers on composites in aerospace manufacturing, worked with NASA on significant advancements in composite processes and structures and has earned many top Boeing corporate awards. He also has lectured and advised on composites manufacturing for Boeing global suppliers and several universities, including the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia.

“I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had in my career of over 30 years to contribute through innovation and work with other highly skilled engineers to push the state-of-the-art of composites within the aerospace industry,” Willsden adds.

In addition, Aligned Vision (Chelmsford, Mass., U.S.) received the 2020 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Small Company) for its instrumental achievements in bringing digital technologies to the composites industry. According to SME, the company’s technologies simultaneously accelerate fabrication rates and raise component quality, while generating as-built information that lets fabricators know how well the finished component matches the digital design. Aligned Vision uses 3D-laser projection for guidance of “light templates” in the composite manufacturing layup process, replacing physical mylar or fiberglass templates and reducing layup time by a reported 85%.

Boeing 777X first flight

Boeing 777X during its first flight in January 2020. Source | Boeing

The Boeing Co. received the 2020 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Large Company) for innovative tooling and manufacture of its 777X aircraft, which incorporates the longest, single-piece composite wing spar. Thanks, in part, to the composite wing, the 777X will allow airplanes to carry more people more efficiently and in exceptional comfort. The composite wing spar is the latest milestone in a decade of development, design and build of this innovative airplane family and its production system.

The Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Awards, which traditionally are given at SME’s annual AeroDef Manufacturing event, were presented independently in 2020.


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