At Everett’s Intec, 787 is put to the test

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

Bob LaMantea has no doubt that the Boeing Co.’s new, mostly composite 787 jet can survive a hailstorm in flight.

“They know that airplane can fly through a hailstorm safely because we’ve tested it here first,” he said.

LaMantea’s Integrated Technologies, known as Intec, has been testing and manufacturing composite materials for 22 years — long before Boeing’s 787 made composites an industry sensation.

A weight drops onto a composite slab with the same force and velocity that hail would hit the 787 during flight. To the naked eye, the section looks unharmed from the strike. An Intec worker takes the freshly struck composite section and places it in a machine that scans each layer of carbon fiber composites in much the same way that the human body would undergo a CT scan or an MRI.

Besides having raw numbers to prove how the composite section withstood the impact, Intec now has an image, which illustrates what numbers cannot.

Although Intec’s portfolio is split pretty evenly between testing and manufacturing, it’s the testing that really stands out.

The properties of aluminum are clearly defined, leaving little guesswork on how an aluminum part will perform. With composites, “it’s all new all the time,” LaMantea said.

From the moment that rolls of composite material arrive at Intec, which is just minutes from Boeing’s Everett factory, workers test, retest and document each step.

Even with the 787 in flight testing, testing on its composite structures continues.

“Boeing goes above and beyond in testing,” LaMantea said.

In fact, Intec is still doing testing for the F-22 — the project that got Intec started more than two decades ago.

Boeing makes up about 20 percent of Intec’s business. The composites company also does work for Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Bombardier and Gulfstream. Airbus makes up only a small portion of Intec’s business.

Although much of Intec’s work is focused on airplanes, the company has done military and space applications, including work for the Mars rover. It also builds composite pods for moving and storing things.

“If you’re just a test lab, you put on the white coat and you’re critical of everyone,” he said.

But being a composites manufacturer, too, “it keeps our testing realistic.”

Intec, which has 65 employees, is in the process of expanding its testing center in Everett.

Intec was bought by LMI Aerospace in January 2009. LMI also bought Mukilteo’s D3 Technologies, which is primarily an engineering company. LMI’s plan is to offer integrated services. For example, D3 can engineer wing flaps; Intec will test and eventually manufacture those flaps. The company could automate the manufacturing process, keeping costs competitive.

In the meantime, “we’re pretty much a complete composites center,” LaMantea said.