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Massimo Bercella, CEO of Bercella S.r.l

JEC Composites Magazine interviews Massimo Bercella, CEO of Bercella S.r.l, who explains us how the company has evolved and grown without ever losing the ability to innovate and look further ahead by investing resources, both creative and financial, to successfully face new challenges.

Massimo Bercella, CEO of Bercella S.r.l
READING TIME

9 minutes, 10 secondes

JEC Composites Magazine: Good morning Massimo, yours is a family company, one of the most interesting in the composites industry both for the fast growth and top quality. From the beginning (in 1996) it looks that your vocation is for innovation and deep technical knowledge, how do you see your future?
Massimo Bercella: “Well, along these 25 years (wow time flies!) of intense activity, we had plenty of chances for innovating and experimenting. My father started the business out of his love for new technologies and ideas: he’s always been passioned about airplanes, so in 1994 decided to try building one by laying up carbon fiber plies over a Styrofoam model.

At the time he had no experience at all, as his company was doing equipment for the automation industry (most popular in the Parma region), but he loved the process and went out to buy his first autoclave.

One of the first images of Franco  Bercella laminating the first ultra-light composites plane.
One of the first images of Franco Bercella laminating the first ultra-light composites plane.

Shortly after, he decided to commit 100% to the Composites Industry, whereas at the time there were only a handful of players in the Italian market, and he firstly entered the Motorsport industry by serving primary companies that, luckily for us, happen to be within 100km from our headquarter in Varano de’ Melegari.

We kept growing in the motorsport industry and in the early 2000s we started a diversification process that led us to a variety of aerospace qualification for both Italian and foreign customers, mainly large OEMs, for the manufacturing of structures for airplanes and helicopters. Around 2007 we then started developing our defence customers, with a particular focus on radomes and reflectors.

Giulia ETCR: the CAD model of the bodywork
Giulia ETCR: the CAD model of the bodywork

2015 marked another milestone with our pledge of becoming the main Italian player for Composites Space Structures, that we then met in 2021 by signing the contract to supply Sitael with the Satellite Structure for PLATiNO, the new satellite for the Italian Space Agency.

Our future is then an extension of our past, with a deep involvement in these three main pillars (Aerospace, Defense, and Motorsport) with the combination of design, testing a manufacturing for providing an end-to-end solution to our customers.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Tell us about on your background.
Massimo Bercella: “I’m a mechanical engineer, graduated from the Università degli Studi di Parma, and I started working for the company in 2005 while attending the University (in a family business there’s no room left for being at ease, and if you have 1 day a week without classes then you have to help!) mainly by covering production shifts that needed an extra hand. It was great for me as I had the chance to work in every single department of the shop floor, from layup to finishing to quality inspection, and learned a lot about the practical side of the business.

Bercella is involved in the development of ASI mission “PLATiNO”. This mission is part of the Italian Government’s plan for the Space Industry
Bercella is involved in the development of ASI mission “PLATiNO”. This mission is part of the Italian Government’s plan for the Space Industry

Due to the fact I had good communication skills, a solid technical background, and a good English accent (I’m joking), I moved to the Sales Dept. in 2013. That was a period of recession in Italy, so we decided to focus on our Exports, a decision that paid off on the long run and now we to more than double our revenues and sell almost 35% of our product outside of Italy. Our target for 2023 is to reach 2/3 of revenues coming from exports, a challenge that requires a full commitment of the whole structure.

I then took a break in 2015 and moved to the US where I studied Project Management at the University of California San Diego and was certified a Project Manager Professional (PMP).

In 2018 I enrolled in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the Bologna Business School, which I completed in 2019.

Flax fiber front bumper: this component is a demonstrative one, made for Romeo Ferraris’ Giulia ETCR prototype
Flax fiber front bumper: this component is a demonstrative one, made for Romeo Ferraris’ Giulia ETCR prototype

At the beginning of 2020 I was then appointed CEO of the company, with my father as the President and my brother as CTO. My mother has a predominant role in the company as well: she led the production for almost 25 years and I’m proud to say she is without doubts one of the most predominant experts in prepreg layup in the country.”

JEC Composites Magazine: On which sector(s) do you think we shall see the greatest development for the composite materials industry? Aeronautics, automotive…
Massimo Bercella: “I believe every industry will have its improvement, and will all go in the direction of faster, cheaper, and greener materials.

Aeronautics was heavily affected by COVID-19, and their predicted growth stopped abruptly. The industry is pushing hard to develop reliable out-of-autoclave technologies and will invest a lot in qualifying them: this will keep them busy for a while!

Flax fiber seat-1: the seat developed and realized for Formula SAE single-seaters. Formula SAE is an Italian univerity championship.
Flax fiber seat-1: the seat developed and realized for Formula SAE single-seaters. Formula SAE is an Italian univerity championship.

Automotive drove the development of high-volumes production techniques such as HP-RTM and Compression Moulding for the last decade, now they’re facing the challenge of switching to greener materials, perhaps thermoplastics, in order to include circularity activities in their process.

The Nautical industry is becoming an eager consumer of Carbon Fiber: as the large Yachts are growing higher and higher, they’re switching from Glass Fiber and Steel to Carbon Fiber to lower the boat’s center of gravity. Electrical and foiling boats are also driving the needs for lighter structural components.

The Energy industry is also one that will drive the consumption of the composite materials industry and has the potential to deeply influence the materials of the future both in terms of quality and availability.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Bercella is situated in the famous Italian “Motor Valley” in fact your roots are in the automotive industry since the beginning. Which are your plans for future developments?
Massimo Bercella: “Automotive and Motorsport are in our DNA, and we are committed to play a major role in the Italian Motor Valley, where the most prestigious automakers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Dallara are based.

This is the place to be for developing innovative technologies for high-end cars and then tranfer them to consumer products, every day we receive requests for collaboration from all around the world, and this is a hugely positive thing for our territory.

Flax fiber seat-2
Flax fiber seat-2

We plan on growing our production base for structural components such as monocoque chassis and crashboxes/impact attenuators, a very complex product line for which we are a worldwide leader and plan on bringing our 25 years knowledge from the motorsport to road cars.”

JEC Composites Magazine: How has your company changed over the years? Who are your strategic partners?
Massimo Bercella: “As you can imagine we changed continuously from the mid-90s up to now, I would say the main shift was moving from being a pure Composites manufacturer to adding a lot of complementary processes such as Design, Structural Simulations, Material Testing and Qualifications, Machining, Painting, NDIs. Nowadays our customers come to us knowing they’ll have a single interface that will support them from Design to Manufacturing, extending our reach also outside of the pure Composites-related topics, like for example Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) for which we have a partnership with Beamit (Fornovo di Taro, IT), the largest European producer of 3D printed Metallic parts that can provide fast and reliable production with a variety of materials. With them we’re investing in the development of new design and manufacturing technologies for joining CFRP and 3D printed metallic parts, maximizing the potential for structural optimization and, thus, weight saving.

Restomod Kreator: the hybrid machine for 3D printing and milling of composites Bercella used for the Maserati Restomod project
Restomod Kreator: the hybrid machine for 3D printing and milling of composites Bercella used for the Maserati Restomod project

To be honest I strongly believe in strategic partnership as a mean for expanding businesses, especially in this post-pandemic world in which size, speed, and networks will make the difference.

In the 3D printing world we also launched a Development partnership with CMS (Zogno, IT) and their KREATOR, a Large Area Additive Manufacturing machine that we both believe will be a revolution in the tooling world (and not only…). We recently presented the first production-grade 3D printed moulds for a supercar, a first of its kind in the European industry

Vetorix is our long-time partner for NDIs, one of the most trusted and innovative suppliers we have that is always there when we need it with a variety of techniques: ultrasounds, thermography, thomograpy, etc.

We also developed some demonstrator for the motorsport industry with B-Comp and Angeloni Group, for the use of power ribs reinforced flax fiber for the manufacturing process of a Formula SAE seat. We’re now working with Romeo Ferraris for a special version of the bodywork for their Electric Giulia ETCR.

Last but not least, we have a couple of technical and business partnerships that will be unveiled in the next two months, I can’t say more now as they are work in progress, but I could only say they have a special focus on the aerospace and defence market.”

Tthe first partial prototype of the Restomod project, presented before the 2021 Motor Valley Fest. CMS Kreator Restomod: the hybrid machine for 3D printing and milling of composites Bercella used for the Maserati Restomod project
Tthe first partial prototype of the Restomod project, presented before the 2021 Motor Valley Fest. CMS Kreator Restomod: the hybrid machine for 3D printing and milling of composites Bercella used for the Maserati Restomod project

JEC Composites Magazine: What will be your company’s role in the future of the automotive sector?
Massimo Bercella: “Automotive will continuously increase the use of composites in the next 5-10 years and we want to have a primary role by exploiting our extensive network and our favourable geographic location. To be honest, I don’t see Bercella producing 100.000 units of the CFRP bonnet for the Volkswagen Golf when the time will come, but I believe our role is to support OEMs and Tier-1 with design, technology development, and small to medium series production of structural parts such as chassis, battery boxes and frames, etc. Of course, we always evaluate every opportunity with the maximum interest, and the fact we’re a family-run business allows us to embark in every project we believe will benefit the company in the long run.”

JEC Composites Magazine: The issue of the composite materials environment impact and recyclability represents an increasingly important aspect for the composites industry, how are you dealing with this aspect?
Massimo Bercella: “This is THE topic for the immediate future. We all know composites enable reduced emission thanks to the weight saving they offer, but both their manufacturing and their disposal are way to go in terms of environmental compatibility. We’re in deep talks with Italian and European legislators and everybody agrees that the funds for Next Generation EU and Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza will heavily target solution for Circular Economy and reduced Environmental impacts.

This will be the main focus of a strong and committed partnership we’re closing right now and that will be announced in the coming months.

Restomod 2: 3D printed mold and model, made with CMS Kreator
Restomod 2: 3D printed mold and model, made with CMS Kreator

In the last four years we worked with several partners to widen the application of natural fibres, fabrics and bio-based resins, products that we believe can be successfully applied in a variety of industries, automotive as well. A virtuous example in this case is McLaren F1 Team, since they use flax fibre seats for their race cars, and this perfectly fits the “big theme” of sustainability in motorsport.”

JEC Composites Magazine: How do you see the future for mobility? What will your new challenges be, both in the short and long term?
Massimo Bercella: “The clearest trend is currently related to the electrification of passenger transportation, being them cars, planes, or boats, and I believe this will remain a trending topic for the foreseeable future.

New means of transports are emerging, such as the eVTOLs, that by the way require extensive use of Carbon Fiber to allow longest duration of their flights and higher payloads.

Then of course the big challenge will be related to circular economy and recyclability of Composite materials, together with the development of robust supply chains able to meet the growing demand for parts.

We can joke by saying the future of mobility looks green…!”

Defense radome: the antenna Bercella manufactured for a foreing cutomer, with surveillance purposes
Defense radome: the antenna Bercella manufactured for a foreing cutomer, with surveillance purposes

JEC Composites Magazine: Which projects and which new materials in your future?
Massimo Bercella: “The odd part of our business is that much of what we do is covered by NDAs and offers few “sexy” news in terms of customer-related projects, but I could say on the Motorsport side we’re launching the production of the monocoques for a primary Electric Racecar championship; on the Aerospace front we recently signed a contract with a Japanese company for the joint development of a Structure that will allow the simultaneous launch of multiple satellites; stay tuned as a few other projects will be announced soon.

On the technology point of view, we’re very committed on developing the Large Area Additive Manufacturing technology with CMS KREATOR for providing our customers lower costs and reduced lead times, an effort that is personally backed by my father that is fully committed in making Bercella the reference point for 3D printed tools for Composites.”

More information www.bercella.it