Boeing Breeding Ground for Innovation
Brandon Wegge, a 20-something year old structural engineer had just three years under his belt when he made his first pilgrimage to the Boeing Technical Excellence Conference (BTEC), where hundreds of the company’s brightest engineers gather each year for a melding of the minds. “It was surreal, being surrounded by so many people who were advancing the industry,” said Wegge. “My presentation was focused on structural optimization- using analyses to figure out how light the structure of our airplanes can be using traditional manufacturing.”
Now 14 years later, Wegge is making his fifth visit to BTEC, this time as the company’s chief engineer for additive manufacturing. His goal is to make Boeing an industry leader in additive manufacturing, developing ways to use 3D printing to make airplanes lighter and more cost efficient. “We’re displaying part of a 3D printed cabin interior that’s also inkjet printed with a floral design,” said Wegge. It’s a fabricated part with printed graphics layered on top. “This allows us to give customers what they want for their interiors, and helps us to deliver a low-cost solution that looks great.”
Wegge joins more than 1,200 Boeing engineers, scientists and technologists from all geographic regions of the company, and from all business units, programs and subsidiaries at BTEC, which is being held this week at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri.
It’s the company’s annual breeding-ground for innovation, where technical employees share their work with colleagues and learn about on-going technical activities and best practices.
Many of the engineers driving Boeing’s portfolio of the future- autonomy, hypersonics, additive manufacturing, and more attend BTEC. The dealings here are proprietary and only Boeing employees may attend. The fact that the company can have a meeting of such wide-ranging interests and technical disciplines year-to-year illustrates the depth and breadth of Boeing’s technical ecosystem, conference organizers say.
BTEC started in 2000 as an internal grassroots meeting by a few Boeing Technical Fellows who thought it would be beneficial to gather peers from the different heritage companies that make up today’s Boeing.
This year the theme is “Engineering Our Future: Innovation to change the world.” The conference includes poster and exhibit sessions, an innovation showcase, and more than 300 presentations. In addition, there are honorary ceremonies for domestic and international technical fellows, and award ceremonies for the Spirit of Technical Excellence and Boeing engineers of the year.