Skip to content

The Value of SME’s AeroDef Event

By Dan Braley – Boeing Global Services

My involvement in SME and its AeroDef event began in 2014, when I first presented an Adaptive Machining Overview at AeroDef 2014 in Long Beach, Calif. At the time, the conference was relatively small in terms of attendees and exhibitors in comparison to the explosion of other engineering conferences that began around that time. AeroDef has clearly persevered, increased in size and become more organized over time. Leadership, both through industry involvement and from SME, has strengthened and priorities have been focused.

Dan Braley, Additive Manufacturing Technical Focal – St. Louis USN / USMC Air Vehicle Technical Integrator – F/A-18 SEIT Boeing Global Services, St. Louis, SME Member Since 2015

The conference tracks are tailored to what industry is really interested in from an advanced manufacturing perspective, and it is no longer a given that if you submit an abstract, you will be able to present at AeroDef. Composites, robotics, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and related high-technology engineering topics have all been flowing into AeroDef, and attendance has skyrocketed.

When I look at the quality of the additive manufacturing presentations that are coming to AeroDef, I would honestly put them up against the best of the other well-known additive manufacturing conferences (RAPID + TCT and AMUG included). To me, what AeroDef has to offer that other conferences often lack is a direct relationship of the presentations and sessions to real-world applications and problems.

I personally took on the role as an additive manufacturing technical advisor to SME and the AeroDef Conference beginning in 2017, and I also serve as an additive manufacturing track and sessions chair. I am truly proud to be a part of the talented team that makes up the conference leadership, and I honestly attribute much of the success and growth of the conference to the extraordinary team that SME has assembled to manage the program.

In 2018, SME awarded me the Marcus B. Crotts Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award for my leadership and advancement of additive manufacturing and advanced composites/electromagnetic materials. This was a high point in my career, as it represented an international recognition of my hard work from an organization like SME that is widely recognized and respected among the aerospace industry, and, of course, my peers.

To simply be nominated by Collin Jager, founder and president of Aerofied, was an honor; to be selected as an award recipient, however, has really given me an appreciation of the value and power of networking at AeroDef. This event is where you can expect to meet and network with your peers about the problems you are experiencing and where you can find solutions to most problems by expanding your mind and wandering the exhibition hall floor.

When I look at the trends in additive manufacturing, made evident through AeroDef presentations and submitted abstracts, I see:

  1. An increasing level of interest in tying the digital thread to design for additive manufacturing.
  2. A focus on hybrid and multifunctional processes, showing an interest in more capable additive manufacturing machines and a real push toward consolidation of resources to meet customer needs.
  3. A decline in polymer additive manufacturing and a greater interest and industry-wide focus on metallic and polymer/composite additive manufacturing for more functional and structural additive manufacturing solutions.
  4. A greater interest and level of adoption in advanced model-based engineering (MBE) tools such as topology optimization software due to advancements in the ability to characterize and analyze additive manufacturing design solutions.
  5. A lot of small companies that entered the additive manufacturing boom are now approaching the “trough of disillusionment,” where they are trying to prove their technologies are viable, innovative and worthy of adoption by larger companies and major programs.

These trends show me the future is bright for additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry. Additive manufacturing is, for the most part, moving out of the R&D stages and into the implementation and adoption stages. This is an extremely exciting time for those of us involved in additive manufacturing who have devoted so much of our careers to advancing the technologies to where they are today.

I can honestly say that SME and its AeroDef event have been major contributors to bringing the capabilities and shortfalls of additive manufacturing to light within the aerospace industry, and without some of the valuable information we have shared with one another over the years the technology would not be where it is today. Thank you, SME and AeroDef! Continue to push the limits of technology!

I look forward to seeing you at AeroDef, April 29-May 2 in Long Beach. For more information on the event and to register, visit

Read more