Interview with Giovanni Gambacciani
Eng. Gambacciani, how do you approach a new project?
For us a new project typically consists of a complex system with very precise objectives and requirements. Very rarely, can we draw from our corporate or global background, since we are typically required to solve problems that have never been addressed before, or involving an environment not yet studied or understood. To be able to get to grips with such projects in an efficient way, we try to approach every challenge in the most integrated way possible, without splitting disciplines and immediately generating an overall architecture that can satisfy the requests in a synergetic and integrated way.
However, in the space sector, due to a continuity trend in relation to past activities, customers and agencies tend to unpack everything in disciplines and in working groups. Therefore, it forces us to conceptually separate systems depending on their physics, or perhaps to deal with an aspect without being able to do the same with a complementary overview. As in Ade, for instance, the design is usually separated from analysis (attributed to different companies with different approaches), thus extending the development time without reaching a proper optimization. This approach generates a great limit, justifiable only in very large programs (for example when dealing with the development of a whole launcher). I hope that in the near future we will be able to evolve towards a different approach, fully exploiting the most modern methodologies and software tools that have broken a lot of communication barriers.
In your opinion, what is the contribution of the Internet of Things in the Aerospace sector?
In reality aerospace has been a precursor of the IOT. Most of the facilities have always been equipped and constantly monitored either directly or through meta-models. Today we are developing structures integrating sensors during the construction phase. This can be easier for a composite part, while more challenging when dealing with metal or ceramic components that must work at very high temperatures.
Is Aviospace involved in IoT developments?
Much more than involved. For example we are developing a system using inkjet technology to print electronic circuits directly on the structures. Such specific inks will allow for the status of the structure itself to be monitored, transferring heat, collecting and transmitting data, etc. In the space world, all systems are fully equipped but in recent years we have been experimenting the simplification of these means to acquire information. In a few words we are moving from the traditional technology based on harnesses, to systems that transmit data and signals in wireless mode: the complexity and the cost are reduced but there is an increase in the transmission difficulties. Unfortunately, the space environment is very complex in terms of radio emissions and we have to add the fact that the spatial structures are “closed” ones, often made of metal, which tends to shield the radio emissions
What is the relevance and use of simulation activities in Aviospace and in your sector?
The simulation and the calculation method for finite elements are born with the space race, and still today represent an unavoidable aspect of any space exploration program, but there are two different approaches. In the USA, the tendency is to do more experimental tests than simulations, relegating these to those cases not testable to ground, while in Europe we very often employ experimentation only to validate the developed virtual models. In my opinion, it’s necessary to find a good compromise between experimentation and simulation, and that is what you are trying to reach in Aviospace. Intense testing campaigns may need too much time and money, while virtualization without the contribution of a solid experimental data is little more than a videogame. For example if I do not know the precise characteristics of a material in a certain environment, I cannot simulate its behavior.
In any case, any component must be qualified in an experimental way before the flight.
What are the goals of Aviospace and Giovanni Gambacciani for the near future?
The company is currently approaching new projects in markets that were previously considered as marginal to space. Therefore we are expecting new challenges and challenges are never trivial. Even though we have a very good background, with aerospace at the highest level of engineering and we are used to facing extreme problems of any kind, but it is not so obvious how we can transfer knowledge to other areas and correctly meet other markets expectations.
Hand in hand with this business transformation, I would like, even my personal competencies and those of the working group I coordinate, to evolve accordingly, while maintaining the same approach and hunger for “excellence” that has characterized our work until now and that is essential for those who work in the space field, where nothing can be left to chance.
Newsletter EnginSoft Year 14 n°3