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Press Release

SME’s Composites Manufacturing Tech Group Honors Industry Leaders in Aerospace and Defense Composites Manufacturing

Kurtis Willden, Technical Fellow, The Boeing Co.

(LONG BEACH, California, Nov. 16, 2021) — SME, the professional association committed to advancing manufacturing professionals, academia and communities, today in association with its Composites Manufacturing Tech Group recognized two individuals and two prominent composites manufacturing organizations at its 2021 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Awards.

The awards, which are international in scope, honor contributions of those who have excelled in manufacturing products from advanced composite materials. That excellence can include developing innovative tooling and/or manufacturing process techniques for the manufacture of products that have helped accelerate composites’ growth through superior service, quality or cost-reduction initiatives.

“Manufacturing advances in the aerospace and defense sectors are coming fast and furious to support the accelerating growth in aircraft production,” said Bob Willig, executive director and CEO of SME. “To more than double the aircraft fleet over the next 20 years, innovation must occur that improves processes, materials, quality and throughput. These recipients have risen to the challenge and are applying high-tech solutions to this formidable task.”

J.H. “Jud” Hall Composites Manufacturing Award

The J.H. “Jud” Hall Composites Manufacturing Award recognizes an individual’s 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.

Dr. Ahmed Hassen, R&D Staff Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (DOE)

This year, SME is recognizing J.H. “Jud” Hall recipients from both 2020 and 2021, due to pandemic restrictions that hampered business travel last year. The winners are:

Kurtis Willden, technical fellow, The Boeing Co., the recipient of the 2020 J.H. “Jud” Hall Composites Manufacturing Award, who is recognized for his successes in the development and implementation of processes and equipment for large-composite aerospace structures. Willden, a highly skilled engineer and innovator whose ideas are used in production, saved tens of millions of dollars annually and millions of dollars in nonrecurring cost avoidance in the last 10 years at Boeing.

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.

Dr. Ahmed Arabi Hassen, R&D Staff Scientist, U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is the recipient for the 2021 J.H. “Jud” Hall Composites Manufacturing Award. He is leading ORNL's development efforts for advanced manufacturing of molds and dies for the composite manufacturing industry.

Hassen also contributed to creating a new market of Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the composite tooling industry by developing novel technologies including a new class of composite feedstock materials for large scale AM systems, tooling for industry 4.0 with integrated sensors, and smart tooling via machine learning integration. He currently is working with multiple industry partners to transfer the technologies from the national lab to US tooling industry.

2021 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Small and Large Company)


Plataine, Ltd., received the 2021 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Small Company) for its instrumental achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic in helping its customers run their operations smoothly with smaller, less experienced workforces, maximizing utilization of existing resources and materials to increase product yield. In addition, Plataine’s solutions helped to reduce costs related to quality control, increase visibility and improve remote production control. Finally, Plataine’s scheduling application helped to deal efficiently with supply chain and other disruptions.


Spirit AeroSystems received the 2021 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Award (Large Company) for its work in supplying composite wing spoilers for the Airbus A320 aircraft family. Spirit used its significant resources to redesign the composite spoiler for higher production rates, and also revamp its production process for higher volumes, moving to a fully integrated, out-of-autoclave, single-shot resin-transfer molded solution. Spirit’s new spoiler production system is capable of significantly increasing the production rate at a considerable cost saving, and delivering a product of the same weight that previously was hand-laid-up, honeycomb-stiffened and autoclave cured.

The Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Awards traditionally are presented at SME’s annual AeroDef Manufacturing event. They came into being in 1986, when the J.H. “Jud” Hall award was first given.

About SME

SME connects manufacturing professionals, academia and communities, sharing knowledge and resources to build inspired, educated and prosperous manufacturers and enterprises. With nearly 90 years of experience and expertise in events, media, membership, training and development, and also through the SME Education Foundation, SME is committed to promoting manufacturing technology, developing a skilled workforce and attracting future generations to advance manufacturing. Learn more at, follow @SME_MFG on Twitter or