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Airborne: The Pioneer of Advanced Composites Manufacturing

The digital twin—and the massive amounts of data it processes—often remained elusive to enterprises due to limitations in digital technology capabilities as well as limited computing, storage, and bandwidth  costs. Such obstacles, however, have diminished dramatically in recent years. Significantly lower costs and improved power and capabilities have led to exponential changes that can enable leaders to combine information technology and operations technology to enable the creation and use of a digital twin. Netherlands-based Airborne is a trailblazer in the field of embedded industry that has proficiency in advanced composites.
Incepted in 1995, Airborne has seen a meteoric rise in the last two decades. From a handful of clients in its early years, this company has served more than 35 clients from ten different countries till date. Giants like Airbus, Rolls Royce, Tata Steel, ESA, Asics, SABIC, GKN Fokker Thales Alenia Space, and General Dynamics are clients that are not only reaping the benefits of its services and equally satisfied with its cutting-edge solutions. Team work, precision, ownership and entrepreneur mindset is hardcoded in the company’s work culture that makes it a dominant and unique force in the European region.
Airborne is a technology pioneer in advanced manufacturing of composites: the design, production and industrialization. The company has the determination to take the lead in the automation and digitization of small to mid-size composite parts design and manufacturing. Today, Airborne is crafting a suite of low capex flexible automation solutions which will be  integrated in a digital backbone. The prime endeavor of this company is to create disruptive digital design and production systems, converting raw materials directly into high- end products at radically low conversion costs.
Although automation in composite part manufacturing has been known for a while, it has only been embraced for very large parts, such as automated tape laying (ATL) of plane wings. Airborne is attempting to re-define composite manufacturing of small to medium parts with completely automated end-to-end solutions. “By automating the production process, our clients can save 10-20% of costs for parts in the small-to-medium size range. Our end-to-end solutions will ultimately result in cost savings of up to 70% by removing the number of steps in the value chain through automation and especially digitalization while radically reducing the time to market for our clients,” assert its founder.
The Leading Light of Airborne
John C Maxwell once rightly said: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Arno van Mourik, Director & Founder of Airborne is one such honcho who has established a top notch standard in the business world by engineering products that clients crave for. With its vital experience of 20 years in composites design, manufacturing and industrialization in aerospace, maritime, automotive and consumer’s products, he is driving Airborne towards the zenith of success.
Recently Arno van Mourik became a member of the Dutch Top Team High Tech Systems and Materials (HTSM) with the focus on SMEs. The motivation for Arno van Mourik to join the top team HTSM is drawn from his own experience with the ‘high hurdles’ that mainly scale-ups face when growing. Van Mourik said: “Often these types of companies with a high-tech profile follow a capricious path from technical idea to business model in which multiple business changes are required. Many investors experience this as too complex, too insecure and therefore too risky. A large part of the investors therefore ends their support with often fatal consequences for such a company. I find that very unfortunate because scale-ups often try to put promising technologies into the market with sometimes very interesting disruptive business models.”
While recounting his entrepreneurial sprint, Arno advises the young businesspersons: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Be a visionary, be bold, be humble and listen to your people.”
Flagship Product
Airborne’s flagship product is a suite of automated and end-to-end solutions for the manufacturing of advanced composites parts for the aeronautics, space, new space and maritime sector. Airborne developed Automated Laminating Cell, Automated Kitting and Sorting, Automated Honeycomb Potting and Automated Pick & Place. The company’s main business plan is to provide holistic and advanced manufacturing solutions for composites in the field and place the appropriate equipment setup for its customers. For the digital side of its operations, Airborne has Siemens as a valuable technical partner. Airborne is also exploring with Siemens the possibility of using more AI and the introduction of self-learning machines. Next to this Airborne also has a commercial partnership with KUKA for the robotics.
The company provides many solutions for space industry as well. It has crafted many state-of-the-art solar-array substrates (European market leader), affordable panel technology for satellite mega-constellations and developing affordable structures for small launchers.
Due to the effectiveness of its product, Airborne has won several accolades in various prominent awards functions and events. Most Innovative Supplier by Thales Alenia Space, Europe’s largest satellite manufacturer is the most recent and highly appreciated as it comes from the customer.
Future Endeavour
Airborne wants composites parts be developed, designed and produced in a day, based on one-of-a-kind specifications. Airborne believes in the sustainable and circular production of composites. All materials must ultimately be reused and recycled. “To achieve this, we will have to work in a disruptive way. The principles of the ‘digital enterprise’ are key to this,” states the company.
The company is looking for ways to sell them like a custom-made yet affordable item through 3D printing technology for instance. Would it be possible, using a Digital Twin, to develop and design a production scheme without any flaws and with a 100% accuracy of the result? How about uploading a design and buying it at the Airborne web shop? That’s what Airborne is looking at today.
“Our aim is to quadruple our revenues and crafting an “app store” of digital composite production in the next few years,” concluded the optimist founder.
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