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SAMPE @ 75 - Bill Dahlgren and Airtech Article

Bill Dahlgren and Airtech


In the late 1950’s Bill Dahlgren went to work for Allied Chemical (now Honeywell), in their packaging division, doing sales.  During this time, selling high technology packaging for the medical industries among others, he discovered that the aviation industry was using thin films, similar to what he was selling now, but with much greater and tougher requirements for heat and strength.  Meeting with an Allied Engineering team, and after visiting an Rockwell’s aviation facility in Columbus, Ohio, films were developed that could work in an autoclave environment (400 F and 100 psi) to heat form and bond metal or composite parts (fiberglass and later carbon fiber).  After learning exactly what was needed in this new industry, Allied made films specific to these applications.  They assigned Bill this new market to develop a new product line and find out where other customers were located.  Since most of this work was in southern California, Bill was transferred there in 1965.

From 1965 until 1969 he developed new sales for Allied in California.  The company wanted to transfer him to New York to further develop this market.  Given that the industry taking advantage of these films was mainly in California and not New York, Bill left Allied.  He joined Richmond Corporation, a competitor of Allied in packaging, in 1969 to head up their sales in the aviation department.

In 1971, Bill saw the need for many other products that were used with the films he now sold.  His idea was to make a company that had the original films for vacuum forming and add all the other products needed for this manufacturing process.  His idea was to form a new company, Airtech, and be the worldwide distributor of Richmond films and then work with other companies and their products to be able to offer a “one stop shop” for everything needed to produce the aircraft bonded or composite parts.  Richmond agreed, seeing the possibility for worldwide sales for the films.  On January 1, 1973, Airtech International Inc. was formed with 4 employees.

From 1973 - 1977 Airtech grew to a 10-person company with sales throughout North America, Western Europe and Japan.  The new problem was that Richmond Corporation was sold twice, and the current owner wished to sell direct instead of through distribution.  Airtech was now a target.  Therefore, Airtech began to manufacture their own films.

From 1981 through 1991 Airtech grew at a fast pace (15-35% per year) winning market share from Allied and Richmond.  Also at this time, Airtech took advantage of the fact that composites were growing in use both in military and commercial aircraft because of the potential for improved performance in both markets.  In the late 1980s, Airbus was making gains in Europe, so they started Airtech Europe in 1991.  In 1996, they acquired Tygavac, a UK based competitor to further their European expansion.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, aviation industry sales were sagging, so Bill decided to diversify into other industries that would provide a future growth market for composites.  These industries include automotive, marine, wind energy, recreational, printed circuit board manufacturing and solar energy.  In December 2007 Bill opened Airtech Asia in Tianjin, China.

At 85, Bill is still very involved in Airtech, calling on key customers worldwide.  His knowledge, direction and enthusiasm are an inspiration to all at Airtech and in the global composite industry.


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