IBEX 365 News
30th Anniversary Interview with Airtech
News Date: August 6, 2021
Airtech International Incorporated was founded in 1973 by Mr. Bill Dahlgren, in San Bernardino, California. With only four employees and a rented 5,000 sqft building, Mr. Dahlgren had the idea to create a company that offered a “one stop shop” for everything needed to produce aircraft bonded and composite parts. Today, Airtech has over 800 employees worldwide and is the largest privately owned manufacturer of vacuum bagging and composite tooling materials in the world. We recently connected with Airtech President & CEO Jeff Dahlgren about IBEX’s 30th anniversary and how the composites marine industry has grown over the past 40+ years.
What significant product developments have you made over the last 30 years?
Products to make resin infusion easier and faster. We also had to develop a range of very wide products like vacuum bagging films that are over 12 meters wide. We are currently looking at how our very large 3D printer can be used to produce tooling molds.
What changes has your company experienced in the last 30 years?
Worldwide locations were added to our original California manufacturing facility – Luxembourg, England, China, and Tennessee. We also had to offer the full range of vacuum bagging materials from room temperature low cost products to more expensive higher temperature products.
What effect has IBEX had on your business?
Airtech, composites, vacuum bagging, and IBEX, all grew up together over the past 30 years. This show has helped our business to grow substantially, by attending the shows and getting the word out about controlling emissions, using less resins and getting a stronger laminate by vacuum bagging.
Do you remember your first ever IBEX Show?
It was very small but organized. Composites was not used as much then as it is now, to build boats so we were lost in a “sea” of equipment, glass, fixtures, boat products etc. We were the company that everyone asked… ” so…just exactly what do you do?”
Is there anyone on your team or in ownership that has been with the company for 30 years?
We have about 15 of us with 30 years or more! (I’m in my 41st year!)
What are you looking forward to at IBEX 2021?
We’ll be showcasing our 3D printing capability for tooling and our own resins for 3D printing. Our new products help to reduce the cost of resin infusion while also saving time and increasing production.
Cheers to 30 years!
It has been fun to watch the composites marine industry grow along with IBEX. 30 years ago only a very few fiberglass parts were vacuum bagged. The biggest part of our marine sales were for America’s cup yachts and racing boats. Carbon fiber masts were generally vacuum bagged and cured in autoclaves under higher temperature. Expensive offshore race boats were vacuum bagged early on due to strength and weight issues. As the years advanced, so did the use of composites into the general marine business. It has been exciting to be part of the growth!