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Severstal expands automation capabilities with second investment in Airborne

PAO Severstal, one of the world’s largest vertically integrated steel and mining companies, has led a second tranche of investment into Dutch company Airborne, a developer of digital automation platforms for the production of composite parts and products with integrated composites.

The total investment in Airborne has already amounted to “several tens of millions of dollars”, says Severstal.

In spite of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to many venture projects on the global market being placed on hold, Severstal led the new investment in Airborne with support of existing shareholders including HPE Growth.

In addition, Severstal and Airborne have entered into an exclusive technology partnership agreement in Russia.

Under the terms of the agreement, Severstal will be Airborne’s first-choice partner within Russia for the implementation of all composite projects, including the automated production of composite parts.

Andrey Laptev, director of business development and corporate venture projects at Severstal, says: “Covid-19 has intensified the need for, and general trend towards, automation across most industries.

“Where before we were pursuing digitalization with the aim of increasing our internal efficiency levels, we are now driven by a necessity to guarantee the epidemiological safety of our people, and safeguard the continuity of our production processes.

“Composites manufacturing is difficult to automate, but Airborne’s solutions have the potential to disrupt the market significantly.

“For instance, Airborne technology simplifies mass production and launch of spaceships: sandwich panels with any core and any face sheet material can be manufactured on one automated manufacturing line.

“Despite the current cirumstances, it is vitally important to support entrepreneurs engaged in breakthrough technologies. Therefore, Severstal Ventures decided to lead on this latest investment tranche to Airborne.

“In addition, we aim to bring promising companies to the Russian market and help them to deploy their technologies here. I believe that the agreement we have signed will launch Airborne projects in Russia for Severstal and our clients.”

Ilya Pavlov, project manager at Severstal Ventures, says: “Now the whole world is impressed by the launch of Crew Dragon spacecraft from SpaceX to the ISS.

“The commercial space industry is gaining momentum, and Airborne’s breakthrough solutions will undoubtedly accelerate this race.

“Severstal has been contributing to the development of cosmonautics for many years, supplying steel with special properties for the construction and installation of critical facilities at the Vostochny cosmodrome.”

Airborne has developed and brought to market a unique set of digital technologies that increase the efficiency of carbon fiber composite production by automating the production process.

The company is in the process of commercialising the automated production cells and software.

At its facilities in the Netherlands and the UK, Airborne manufactures composite products for a broad range of sectors including the automotive, construction, shipbuilding, aerospace, electronics and wind power industries.

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