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Learning is a Continuing Venture

Bode Swango
By Bode Swango Manufacturing Engineer, Whitney Tool Co. Inc., SME Member Since 2021
Bode Swango, SME member since 2021.

Sometimes the followup to learning is more learning.

I am a student at Ivy Tech Community College (Ivy Tech) through the online program. I received my associate of science degree in design technology from Ivy Tech Bloomington in 2019 and started work at Whitney Tool Co. Inc. ( in Bedford, Ind., that year. After some searching for the right educational program for my goals, I am back at Ivy Tech to add another Associate of Science in Manufacturing Production and Operations (MPRO).

Through the Design Technology program, I was able to get a certification in Solidworks—the CAD software that I use daily at Whitney Tool, and now in my volunteering efforts as well. I also have a certification in Robotics Operations from the Smart Automation Certificate Alliance (SACA). I plan on taking the exam for the next level of Solidworks’ certification by the end of this summer.

From my freshman year of high school, I knew that I wanted to take at least one class at the local Vocational and Technical Career Center (VOTECH); I just did not know which class, or classes, I should take. It was not until my sophomore year that I found the class that forever hooked me on computer-aided design (CAD): Introduction to Engineering Design (IED). This was Project Lead the Way’s (PLTW) introductory class—as the name implies—to design and engineering. My journey on the engineering road had begun.

After learning the fundamentals of CAD and engineering, I continued my journey through the VOTECH, taking as many classes as I could: Principles of Engineering, Drafting I & II, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and Networking. While only some of these classes have come into play in my life, the knowledge gained from industry professionals is invaluable.

I am employed as the manufacturing engineer at Whitney Tool, which was founded in 1970 by Wilfred “Whitney” Rytkonen. He started the company by making standard dovetail cutters. As time went on, the number of customers increased, as did the various offerings of the company. Today, 50 years later, Whitney Tool offers thousands of SKUs of many standard cutting tools. However, over half the business conducted involves custom-made cutting tools.

Several form cutting arbor-type tools made by Whitney Tools are two-piece sets, but this example was particularly interesting because the second, smaller piece sits inside the larger piece. This meant that the larger piece, shown in the image as a 3D CAD model, required a recess for its partner. (Provided by Whitney Tool Co. Inc.)

As the manufacturing engineer for Whitney Tool, all of the new, custom or special-purpose cutting tools come across my desk. It is my responsibility to create the necessary process documentation, i.e., the process sheet and the detailed drawings. In doing this, I have learned a good deal about manufacturing, but I know that I still have a lot more to learn and am excited to do so. In this regard, my colleagues at Whitney Tool have been great to work with and learn from, and I am very thankful for that!

Exciting, interesting and/or difficult projects come and go. One of the most memorable was a form cutting arbor-type tool that was a two-piece set. Whitney Tool makes several of these tools, but what made this memorable for me was the fact that the second, smaller piece sat inside the larger. This meant that the larger piece, shown in the image as a 3D CAD model, had a recess for its partner.

Using Solidworks, the tool sample and the customer’s print, we were able to reverse engineer and discover ways to manufacture the tool in a more efficient way.  

I have also spent seven years as a student team member, team co-captain and mentor in award-winning FIRST Robotics teams in Lawrence and Monroe (Indiana) Counties. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, “... to compete for the hearts and minds of kids with the excitement of the Super Bowl,” said Kamen.

FIRST Robotics, and organizations like Superior STEAM, which support and run these teams, have provided an outlet for me to get out of my comfort zone, learn and grow, and share what I have learned with others around me and the next generation of scientists, artists, engineers and leaders.

And that is the same reason I am excited to be a member of SME—because as a student member, I am that next generation.

SME Composites Manufacturing Technical Group Honors Leaders in Aerospace, Defense Composites

The Composites Manufacturing Technical Group of SME recognized two individuals and two prominent composites manufacturing organizations at its 2021 Excellence in Composites Manufacturing Awards program in Long Beach, Calif., in November at the AeroDef Manufacturing event, which is produced by SME. The awards, which are international in scope, honor contributions of those who have excelled in manufacturing products from advanced composite materials.

Composites are an essential part of manufacturing. This image shows car exterior elements made from carbon fiber composites of interwoven black and gray color from heavy-duty yarns for the production of light and durable elements.

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.

This year, SME recognized J.H. “Jud” Hall recipients from 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 was recognized for his successes in the development and implementation of processes and equipment for large-composite aerospace structures.

Dr. Ahmed Arabi Hassen, R&D Staff Scientist, U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.,was the recipient of 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.

Two corporate awards—small company and large company—also were presented for innovation in composites manufacturing. The small company award went to Plataine Ltd., Waltham, Mass., 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.

The large company award went to Spirit AeroSystems, Wichita, Kan., 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.

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