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Innovation All Around and a Promising Outlook

Thomas Kurfess
By Thomas Kurfess 2018 SME President

Welcome to Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing 2018. This year, we’re proud to offer you a comprehensive outlook on the A&D industry from Richard Aboulafia, VP of analysis at Teal Group Corp. In Aboulafia’s report, he begins with a strong statement: “The outlook for the aircraft industry is now the best it has been for decades.” In fact, the world’s aircraft output came to just over $180 billion in 2017. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Gulfstream still lead the industry in the U.S., while Airbus and Boeing are increasingly controlling the world market. Annually, the A&D industry contributes $700 billion-$900 billion to the world economy.

This book also delivers a wide range of articles on how the A&D manufacturing market segment is utilizing advanced manufacturing technologies to improve production and cost:

  • Fastems has some notable developments to report involving adding functionality into cell or flexible manufacturing systems (FMS). It is now integrating robotic deburring stations, parts washers and even CMMs—functions that are typically considered secondary operations.
  • Learn how Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s noncontact point sensor—the HP-O (Hexagon Probe-optical)—uses a fiber-optic-laser source to enable measurement of highly reflective surfaces, allowing for a return signal on even the shiniest of surfaces.
  • If aerospace is such an adopter of 3D printing technology, why hasn’t the certification process been addressed? Read Stratasys’ detailed response to this question.
  • Artificial intelligence is weaved in with capacity management, cybersecurity, data science, diagnostics, ERP-PLM integration, location analysis, machine learning, predictive maintenance, process optimization and supply-chain management. So, it has reached “irresistible status” for A&D manufacturers.
  • The H160 is the first aircraft to be designed at Airbus Helicopters using the 3D data as master. See how this innovative design concept is changing the way Airbus develops, produces and supports its helicopters.
  • Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed are all singing the praises of composites. In fact, after more than a century of innovation, the benefits over metal are plentiful.
  • Six years ago, Lockheed considered additive manufacturing unfamiliar territory. See what changed the company’s outlook and how its additive team now produces several thousand parts a year, many of which are for end-use production.
  • When extended reality (XR) burst onto the scene a few years ago, it offered amazing visualization possibilities in numerous application areas. What many do not know is that there is a very rich history between XR technologies, aerospace and Boeing. Find out what is next for the company as it continues to explore the use of XR.
  • When BAE Systems and Virgin Orbit embarked on their digital transformation journeys, the companies realized early on that communication and change management processes were just as important as the technology components. Both companies share how putting knowledge workers at the center of the manufacturing enterprise empowers them.

Beyond the pages of this annual publication, SME offers a variety of ways for you to gain even more information about this essential industry. If you have not attended our AeroDef Manufacturing event (, I highly encourage you to do so (members receive a 20% off the list price). In 2019, we will be heading back to the Long Beach Convention Center in California, April 29-May 2.

During AeroDef, we also recognize composites manufacturing companies and industry experts for their contributions ( In addition, our annual poster challenge gives undergraduate students, early engineers and industry research professionals an opportunity to share their perspectives and ideas on what could potentially transform A&D manufacturing.

As a manufacturing industry resource and advocacy organization, we look forward to seeing what’s next on the horizon in A&D and continuing to support all of you and your efforts. Thank you for being part of SME.

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