NCMS Announces Overall and People’s Choice Winners of the 2023 CTMA Technology Competition

Ann Arbor, MI, June 8, 2023—The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) announced today that the US Air Force has been selected the Overall Award winner and Cumulus Digital Systems has been selected the People’s Choice Award winner of the 2023 CTMA Technology Competition. The contest is NCMS’s annual event that highlights innovations in maintenance and sustainment technologies.

The US Air Force, for “Ultrasonically Activated De-Paint (UADP) Technology,” was selected as the Overall Award winner by the judges. The UADP Technology offers a safer, less cumbersome coating removal tool for aircraft components. Members of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) worked collaboratively with IBC Materials & Technologies and University of Dayton Research Institute to develop an environmentally friendly, aqueous-based process that completely removes top-coat and primer without damaging underlying anodized coatings. Use and disposal of hazardous chemicals and plastic media are eliminated and worker protective measures are minimal. The process removes the coating in sizable, easy to dispose pieces, and it only requires three steps: basic preclean/degrease, ultrasonic agitation, and final pressure wash.

The UADP process has been demonstrated on pilot lines at IBC and the Air Force Advanced Technology Training Center at Warner-Robins, GA. The DOD’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) recently awarded Air Force Sustainment Center-Robins a follow-on project to further scale and demonstrate the process on additional depot and cross-service parts. In 2022, the technology was honored with ESTCP Project of the Year Award.

“We believe this will be a game-changing technology for how we remove paint and eliminate the hazardous chemicals currently used,” said Michael Froning, Technical Director, Product Support Engineering Division, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “I’m excited for the team and want to thank ESTCP for their faith in sponsoring this work. Thank you to our team: the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, IBC Materials, and the University of Dayton Research Institute.”

Cumulus Digital Systems’ entry, “WeldScout™: Intelligent Welding Inspections for Critical Infrastructure,” was selected as the People’s Choice Award winner by attendees at the 2023 CTMA Partners Meeting and NCMS Technology Showcase, where the competition’s finalists presented their technology solutions. WeldScout™ is an image recognition technology that ensures quality for welding by using artificial intelligence (AI) to rapidly identify defects in weld inspection scans. Its primary purpose is inspecting weld integrity for the structural and piping connections that compose the world’s most vital industrial infrastructure, including aerospace, shipbuilding, bridges, data centers, and more. The system uses a trained algorithm to evaluate phased array ultrasonic testing (PAUT) scans of welding and identify potential defects. PAUT enables scans to be reviewed by certified inspectors anywhere in the world, not just those at the facility.

WeldScout™ has been piloted on multiple projects, proving its effectiveness in real-world environments. During a pilot on a large project in South Korea, WeldScout™ was found to make inspections 5X faster, increasing welding inspector productivity from 5 meters/hour to 27 meters/hour. Overall, it decreases inspection and data processing time by over 50%. This technology is especially relevant for maintenance purposes, because proactively detecting potential welding defects before accidents occur is the most cost-effective and sustainable approach. WeldScout™ is currently in prototype form. Cumulus plans to complete development for the first commercial release later this year, and then expand the platform to include many other types of inspection data.

Selecting the Overall Award winner was a panel of judges who serve as principals for the Joint Technology Exchange Group (JTEG), a collaborative group formed by the DOD to improve coordination in the introduction of new or improved technology, new processes, or new equipment into DOD depot maintenance activities. The same group gathered earlier to review all entries and select the competition’s six finalists, who earned their recognition for excellence in maintenance relevance or impact, originality and contribution to state-of-the-art solutions, technical maturity, cross-service applicability, and feasibility/practicality.

Each award winner will be provided $50,000 in project support funding to enable them to take part in a selected Department of Defense demonstration activity, to the extent permitted under the existing CTMA cooperative agreement.

For more details about the CTMA Technology Competition, including an electronic booklet that showcases all entries, see: