20 Nov R&D, the key to foresee the scenarios of tomorrow. Interview with Paolo Perello
Interview with Paolo Perello, YCOM R&D Composite Engineer
R&D in the motorsport and mobility industry is crucial to be competitive, to welcome or anticipate new opportunities, and to respond to the need for continuous improvement.
Paolo Perello, from May 2014 Project Manager and R&D Composite Engineer at YCOM, is in charge of projects following and he is the reference for all questions of technology and development on materials.
Paolo, which elements are essential in R&D activity?
In my opinion, curiosity is fundamental; from all points of view: discovering, researching, and solving. R&D is applied to research and development. Looking at the problem in a flexible way to see its various aspects. Another important aspect is imagination, in the sense of foresight, since it is necessary to anticipate the market and foresee development scenarios. The situations for which we undertake R&D projects are:
- Needs analysis. It sometimes comes from outside if you have a challenging request from the customer! Or because there is an idea, and it needs to be deepened. Everything comes from a technical and technological need to optimize something there is or to invent something new.
- A challenging project. The R&D, in that case, is born to develop an idea, something we know that others are already working on, and we understand that it is possible to deepen it also from our point of view.
- If we are stuck on a project, then doing research and development becomes fundamental because it analyzes the problem’s cause and solves it for the present and future.
What does it mean to do R&D in the automotive and mobility sector?
The market is extremely dynamic and extremely fast. Today’s materials and technologies change very quickly, and even more so in motorsport, the field where we have always moved. This, both because it is a competitive world and because it often becomes the field of testing and investigation. The same attitude is required today for new applications in the mobility sector.
It focuses on innovative aspects to have an advantage over others. Consequently, all R&D activities ranging from physical to technological and material-related aspects, if carried out correctly, are exactly those that allow you to win over others. For manufacturing, too, R&D is the element that allows you to have an advantage in terms of competence and speed of reaction.
How is R&D research carried out, and for what purpose at YCOM?
How? First of all, the method. R&D must be based on data and evidence: we use structured and standardized but always flexible investigation methods to use different research methods. Then, the approach. We always start with observing the market, through participation in events, fairs, and conferences, not only in our sector. This allows intercepting the news. The stimuli also come from unexpected areas and other fields. Then, of course, it is always necessary to keep business in mind, to understand if the solution is sustainable.
It is necessary to be always vigilant, participate in trade fairs and events, develop partnerships with other companies, customers, and suppliers, and be always open to developing solutions together. Testing new products. Sometimes we are a point of reference, even only in the consulting field. Often the supplier of the raw material does not have a total vision of the possible applications. We do, especially thanks to our skills that include product design to the final testing phase.
Answering why is easy: to be competitive, to welcome or anticipate new opportunities, and to respond to the need for continuous improvement, which in this sector is not a plus, but a must. Even if you are the best, you can never stand still and be satisfied: there will soon be another even better solution.
Your vision for the future?
We are opening up to new technologies and fields of application, such as automated production and the development of sustainable materials, for a reduction of carbon footprint throughout the production process, which is the goal we have been focusing on lately. We are working on identifying the correct methodologies and fields of application for natural fibers, intending to optimize their use. The implications of natural fibers are many in the field of mobility and other sectors. They are proof of what I have understood from my personal experience:
R&D is a field where the more the approach is holistic, the more you are open to new solutions, the more you keep a transversal vision between different fields of application, the most you get innovative results, with advantageous products, but also safe and sustainable.
You spoke about sustainability, and you mentioned the natural fibers new applications. Can you explain more about it?
R&D must focus on innovation and must also include eco-sustainability. This is the real limit to overcome.
The initial path chosen by YCOM is that of natural fibers, obtaining a collaboration with Bcomp, a leader in the sector. Until now, natural fibers have been used mainly for secondary structures or bodywork. Here is where YCOM wanted to differentiate and dare. As a first study, we thought about crash structures, so we set up an internal test campaign to characterize the material’s crush behavior by comparing it with classic carbon fibers. In the face of these encouraging results, we wanted to address the topic by focusing on a real crash test. Then we proceeded to define the layup through calculation methods developed and validated internally over the years and FEM simulation. The experimentation must also pass through use. Understanding the technological limits of the materials is fundamental. The sensitivity of our experienced teams, such as our laminators and mechanics, is based on experimentation. The precious feedback they can give is the key to applying new materials on a large scale or developing technologies to ensure their successful introduction on the market.
This technical exercise has allowed us to push the limit further, opening a global new perspective, with the possibility of using natural fiber composite materials in unthought out areas. Every material has its potential; we can discover it only by daring and stretching boundaries.