Exhibitor Spotlight: Sandor Woldendorp, Business Unit Director at Airborne Space
Sandor Woldendorp is business unit director at Airborne Space, where he enables the company’s customers to explore and benefit from the full potential of composites. In order to meet that potential, Airborne Space thinks along the lines of game-changing, disruptive solutions. Airborne is a technology leader in the automation and digital manufacturing of advanced composites and its employees have broad knowledge of craftsmanship on how to make composite parts. Airborne is deploying its 20 years of composite know-how and automation experience to help companies make the step from manual manufacturing to a fully automated and digital production. These trailblazing innovations enable Airborne’s clients to be more competitive by reducing costs and saving time.
Which customer or market demands were the biggest drivers of your company's growth during the past three years?
We see the space market facing a huge demand for affordable satellites to fully bridge the digital divide by 2027, making internet access available and affordable for everyone. Satellites make it all possible. The sector is suddenly being challenged by the production of hundreds to thousands of satellites, panels and launchers. Production needs to ramp up. This also means that time- and cost-saving solutions are urgently needed. Commercial space initiatives have been forcing the industry to rethink its values. When highly priced products will be more affordable with the competition, traditional space customers will eventually switch. At Airborne we assist with automating the manufacturing of space products, to help clients enhance or regain their competitive position in this evolving market. Making composites production more affordable continues to be our biggest driver, all to help make launchers and rockets lighter (less fuel, more payload).
What new trends do you anticipate and what market demands do you see evolving/changing over the next five years?
Composite production is a relatively young technology and industrialisation has yet to make its grand appearance. So the (new) space market will continue to require disruptive solutions in terms of price level and production capacity, as well as reliability. We will stay on the path of supporting our customers with the manufacturing of high-quality, affordable composite spacecraft structures.
However, we see new trends emerging in new space. The satellite and small launchers market is in transition in terms of commercialisation and moving towards smaller solutions. Therefore, we are also developing and qualifying affordable substrate panels for mega-constellations and we will continue to offer a unique, affordable proposition for small launchers. Instead of the current efficient production scheme of two to three space panels per week (already quite fast), we will aim for an order-of-magnitude faster production scheme for mega-constellations. Meeting this demand is a very interesting challenge. As an industry we will need to produce thousands of satellites and hundreds of smallsat launchers per year. Basically, we are anticipating on enabling making mass production for new space.
What are your areas of R&D focus and what timeline do you anticipate for bringing your next new products to market? Can you tell us anything about those products?
At Airborne we will continue to expand the smart manufacturing/ industry 4.0 approach for satellite panel manufacturing as well as for smallsat launcher structures. We focus on pushing the industry forward through industrialisation, digitalised automation and applying different production process technologies, making spacecraft components even more affordable for their clients. Through a digital platform we connect predictive material engineering, product engineering, process engineering, dynamic machine programming and quality assurance.
A great example is the SMall Innovative Launcher for Europe (SMILE) project, where we aimed at designing a launcher for smallsats while bringing down the manufacturing cost through cost-effective solutions such as our Automated Laminating Cell, responsible for all laminating of the SMILE demonstrator, which combined robotised tape laying, laminate cutting and pick and place of the laminates.
What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities currently faced by the industry?
As production volumes in the high-end composite industries are increasing fast, companies are looking for ways to radically reduce cost and touch labour, minimise the footprint and use of material, and improve the time to market. To meet their needs, here at Airborne we offer a suite of automated solutions for the manufacturing of their advanced composites parts. By automating their 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 digitalisation while radically reducing the time to market for our clients.
This creates great opportunities. With our 20 years heritage in composites, at this moment we provide our clients with high-end composite solutions either directly through advanced manufacturing of components or by developing industrialisation packages which we implement at manufacturers of choice. Our focus is on high-end composite components, at high production rates at radically low conversion costs.
This year we expect to connect to more parties in need of affordable spacecraft structures, including solar-array substrates, satellite structures and smallsat launchers. Moreover, we hope to meet players who want to team up; to automate, digitise and create the future of composites together with us.
Airborne Aerospace will be exhibiting at Space Tech Expo Europe 2019 at stand J70.