CEO of ITMO Technopark Resident NTC Pribor Talks Metallurgy and Entrepreneurship
NTC Pribor, a resident of ITMO University’s Technopark, has spent almost twenty years working with major production plants and supplying them with cutting-edge equipment that cannot be found anywhere else. The company’s machine vision systems are currently being installed at a major PAO Severstal facility. The company’s CEO, Alexander Chernopolsky, spoke with ITMO.NEWS about his company’s latest developments and the rules of survival in the Russian steel industry.
What can you tell us about your company?
NTC Pribor was founded in 2003, but it was back in 2000 that our key members, made up mostly of ITMO University staff, landed the first orders from PAO Severstal and the refractory plant in the town of Sukhoi Log. We did well on both and then established a company that would produce devices for the steel industry.
The company’s main area of focus was the development of original systems for the measurement and control of thermal processes. We supply equipment made for conditions in which traditional tools are too difficult to use. For instance, we produce special optical radars for high-precision measurements in high-temperature areas. These are used by companies such as Severstal and Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK).
They also use our machine vision systems to position ladles when pouring liquid iron from the blast furnaces. This tech allows them to prevent iron from leaking out of the ladles, keep track of the objects’ heat storage, and evaluate their fill rate. Low fill rates disrupt the production cycle, and high fill rates result in actual human casualties. All of our machine vision systems are based on complex, real-time mathematical models.
Are there any other systems like it in the world?
At the time we began developing this technology, there weren’t. Other companies have introduced their counterparts recently. The uniqueness of our solution is, generally, a feature of the steel industry. Nobody will sign contracts with us if we don’t develop and produce something unique. If we were to develop, say, a logical controller, and bring it to Severstal, they’d just make fun of us for a while and then buy the Siemens product even if ours were ten times better. It doesn’t matter how good it is: if they can get Siemens, they’ll get Siemens. Because that’s a company that’s been working for the last 150 years. This is what stimulates us to develop and seek out areas where we can do something better or more unorthodox than our colleagues in Russia or abroad.
Is your connection to ITMO University a benefit in business?
Absolutely. The mathematical aspects of our machine vision systems were developed, in large part, by the staff of ITMO University’s Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics: associate professors Vladimir Boikov and Sergey Bystrov, as well as researcher Andrey Blinnikov. Andrey Blinnikov and Ekaterina Ilina even defended their PhD theses based on the results of our work, and the conclusions of these papers were applied in actual technical procedures at Severstal and NLMK.
Over the years, our team alongside the staff of ITMO University has equipped several steel production facilities with complex systems that function in extreme conditions. I should also note that our position as an ITMO Technopark resident also allows us to involve the University’s staff in tackling difficult tasks and to consult with uniquely qualified specialists.