Even though we are a relatively small company, we have our own Airborne Technology Centre, which does most of our development work. We hooked up with NLR after spending a couple of years looking for a partner that could really add value. We mostly cooperate on European projects, such as PUMA (for Green Regional Aircraft) in which we developed a pressure bulkhead for a smaller aircraft. We also cooperated on the Smart Fixed Wing project, which was strategically important to us. In this instance, we developed a composite component that is used in the flap of a business jet. Until now, this component was made of metal, which makes it an interesting challenge.
We opted for NLR because of their expertise in developing new composite technology and then applying it. NLR takes a highly pragmatic approach and clearly has a great deal of experience. This speeds up our development process.
NLR adds value in that they have a broad expertise in composite design as well as process technology. They handle design, process, product-process considerations and manufacturing, as well as testing. Many of our pilot projects are run by NLR. Because we now employ almost 250 people, our role has changed. We now regularly consult at the executive level and NLR requests our involvement at an earlier stage, which enables us to coordinate our roadmaps. NLR adjusts its services to meet the demands of businesses and takes an enterprising approach in this regard. This is borne out by the development of our pilot plant in Marknesse. We are opening an annex there called ANTC (Airborne-NLR Technology Centre), so that we can cooperate even more intensively. We can now make use of NLR equipment at the right price, which means we can immediately incorporate the costs into our calculations. The work this generates ensures that NLR facilities are better utilised, which means everyone benefits. We even share our strategic plans at an early stage and coordinate our investment plans, improving our market chances.
What makes NLR special is its broad knowledge of the business, practical and applicable, and sufficiently flexible. And that also goes for smaller companies reading this: NLR really is very easy to work with.
For us, NLR’s key capabilities lie in the field of composites and simulations, but also the making of the product itself, the prototypes. They also support us in the maintenance of rotor blades, another area in which we have ambitions. This is beyond our own realm of expertise, but important for future activities.
NLR helps take the last step in taking a product to a commercial level. It is also a figurehead in terms of its prestige as an independent knowledge centre, which is especially evident when it comes to international trade missions.