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Paolo Grati, M.Sc. Aeronautical Engineer, Founder and Managing Director, GPMC

JEC Composites Magazine speaks to Paolo Grati, M.Sc. Aeronautical Engineer, Founder and Managing Director, GPMC, to ask him his considerations about the evolution of the composites industry over the last 30 years and how he thinks the market will develop.

Paolo Grati, M.Sc. Aeronautical Engineer, Founder and Managing Director, GPMC
READING TIME

10 minutes, 40 secondes

In 2006, Paolo Grati, after working 16 years for the composite industry worldwide, founded the GP Marketing Consulting Sas, a consulting company sharing his expertise and skills working in a proactive attitude in the marketing and development of composite materials, focusing particularly on carbon reinforcements.

GPMC proactively cooperates with leading national and foreign based companies for the development of new products and the search of alternative raw materials worldwide.
The Company follows the applications of the carbon fibres both from PAN and PITCH precursors focusing on processing of continuous fibres (weaving, multiaxial manufacturing, pultrusion, filament winding, UD prepregs, RTM and resin infusion technology).
In 2014 Paolo received the Qing 2nd level certification by the “Engineer register of Milan Area” in the field of “Materials Engineering” specialization “Consultancy on development of new products in composite materials”.

In 2017 Paolo Grati received the “National CERT’ing Certification” by the National Agency for the Certification of Competence of Engineers, as expert in “Materials Technologies” with the specialization in “Development of new applications in composite materials”. In 2019th the CERT’ing certification has been renewed and granted from ACCREDIA according to the UNI CEI EN ISO/IEC 17024.

In the course of the last few years he and his staff introduced some new products based on nanotechnologies in the European Market, offered a special assistance in the usage of recycled carbon products in automotive field and suggested the introduction of fire barriers and noise damping solutions to the main European OEM.

We asked him, as a person very well informed of the facts, boasting a specifically industrial background as well as commercial, his considerations about the evolution of the composites industry over the last 30 years and how he thinks the market will develop.

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you tell us more about your role in the GPMC foundation and growth?
Paolo Grati, M.Sc. Aeronautical Engineer, Founder and Managing Director, GPMC: “In 2006 the advanced composites market was still made up of many small companies, often with a specific know-how of excellence but limited by company size and fear of competition.  I immediately understood that the knowledge acquired and the recognition of the market allowed me to talk to different companies.

From these “promoted” synergies it is often possible to obtain highly innovative solutions and products. I therefore decided to continue on this path and GPMC become a facilitator for many companies in the sector, just to mentioned some examples:

Lamborghini Aventador: development of  a  range  of  balanced  materials  that would combine drapability, good structural properties, and an innovative method of binding the materials in a preform structure prior to injection.
Lamborghini Aventador: development of a range of balanced materials that would combine drapability, good structural properties, and an innovative method of binding the materials in a preform structure prior to injection.

With Formax, now Hexcel Reinforcement, and the Angeloni Group, we collaborated for more than 10 years in a very proactive way introducing their reinforcements in automotive applications like Pagani Automotive, Lamborghini, Shark helmets, Cobra windsurfs end several others. We also suggested to combine the spreading technology of Angeloni for the production of very light Formax multiaxials.

cooperation with FORMAX and ANGELONI,  biaxial reinforcements from 50 to 100 gsm
Cooperation with Formax and Angeloni, biaxial reinforcements from 50 to 100 gsm

One of the other partners we started to collaborate with from the start was Sumitomo, which is the European distributor of pitch fibers of Mitsubishi. We have with them a very long collaboration of more than 15 years. For them we handled the south European market and we developed a complete line of fabrics based on DIALEAD® fibers. A great experience in which we combined the inventive of Italian people with the pragmatism of the Japanese team.   

A wide range of DIALEAD®  pitch fabrics,  UD, balanced or spread from 150 to 650 gsm
A wide range of DIALEAD® pitch fabrics, UD, balanced or spread from 150 to 650 gsm

Also with SMAC SA, a leading French company in vibration control and noise reduction for which, in more than 12 years of positive cooperation, we introduced their products in several application creating prepreg composite laminates for the noise reduction in automotive and aerospace cabins. With them we are now studying new combination of solutions also based on our recycled carbon line of products.

Boeing 787 door. Damping material  with DIALEAD®  carbon fibres
Boeing 787 door. Damping material with DIALEAD® carbon fibres

Our more recent experience was to create, together with GEN-2 Carbon and Technologycom, a strong synergy for the set-up of recycled products that we are now offering through our RECARBON company, another examples of combination of skills and very different technologies.

One of the most challenging activities we decided to start was to help Nanolayr, a high-tech New Zealand company producing nanofiber technology, commercializing their products in Europe, targeting F1 teams and the aerospace world. It as been a great example on how it is possible to use nanotechnology in a product very easy to handle industrially. We achieved an increase in performances adding very low weight to the composite. This is one of the few nano-based products which I saw working at high production rates granting the customer’s expected properties constant in time.

Last example is Corebon BV, a very innovative Swedish company offering a revolutionary “Induction Heating” technology that brings large reductions in energy consumption and a strong increase of production rates in autoclave or out-of-autoclave processes. I met them more than 5 years ago and immediately fall in love with their systems. With them, I have seen production of million pieces/year using only just one press. Something really not easy to imagine just 5 years ago.

Politecnico di Milano – Aerospace DPT Development of innovative tooling based on high modulus pitch fibres for structural aeronautical components.
Politecnico di Milano – Aerospace DPT Development of innovative tooling based on high modulus pitch fibres for structural aeronautical components.

All our history is a path towards our original dream and a demonstration our work philosophy, from the synergies we can obtain amazing and unexpected results. The composites world is one of the most innovative industrial environments and also a small reality that can take profit and show its capabilities if well-coordinated.”

JEC Composites Magazine: You have a long experience in the development of Italian composites industry, from insider surely you can tell us how the industry developed and what you consider are the new growing sector and new perspective.
Paolo Grati: “30 years ago the world of advanced composites, related to carbon fibers to be clear, was essentially focused on aerospace, racing cars (F1) and a few sports items such as golf clubs and special fishing rods.Then, we moved on to more important numbers and to luxury road cars, to applications in the nautical “race” such as catamarans and America’s Cup boats, canoes and surfboards. Today we are working on the large series and on an incredible number of applications, from construction to yachting, from railways to furniture. In addition, however, to having taken more and more space in the military and aerospace. Obviously, there are sectors such as aeronautics and defense that have grown much more

In over 30 years of activity I have always experienced a growth of the composites market. It is a market that continues to look for its true location, still young and extremely innovative. It takes imagination and pragmatism to launch new products while keeping foots on the ground.  I believe that in all sectors we see the potential held back by the historically high “craftsmanship” for many of the existing processes but at the same time many young minds are racing to find improvements which will allow the market to touch the volumes still often considered “dreams”. Obviously today the whole world is focused on the word “sustainability”, and this has generated a great development effort to find the most virtuous process”

JEC Composites Magazine: Today’s challenge lies in knowing how to decipher the signs of the international market. Unfortunately, the current situation is not easy, two years of pandemic and now a war close to poses problems in the supply of oil and gas. In your opinion, how this is and will affect the composite industry?
Paolo Grati “As often happened in the past, from dark periods of great crisis, periods of exceptional growth have been born, precisely because the best innovative minds have been able to focus on new products. Personally, I think that  we have been often too busy running from one side of the world to the other, therefore, being forced to sit in front of the computer in the office focusing on how to make the most of our time has been positive.

The war is bringing new serious energy problems, pushing the industry to reduce the weight of products, specifically automotive and aeronautics, to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint guaranteeing valid support for the electrification of the vehicles themselves. The consequent strong demand for carbon fibers and the rising costs, favors a careful evaluation of everything that can be obtained from scraps that are still “noble” and with good mechanical properties of what can be obtained from waste still with good mechanical properties. Suffice to say that today, we are able to produce components with the 50% in recycled carbon, with 4-5 times higher properties than the products used up to now for paneling and bulkheads of many vehicles.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Sustainability is THE topic: what do you think of the use of natural fibers? Generally speaking, what are your considerations on sustainability and recycling? We understand that recently you introduced “RECARBON”, your company’s spin off you are launching. We would like to know what is it and what are its objectives?
Paolo Grati: “I must say that it comes from an opportunity for which I have to thank an important car manufacturer. I was asked, just before the pandemic crisis, to help define the complete recycling system that we had all been talking about for several years. It was an important push and I was able to have on my side a team of technicians with the desire to make it happen. With all my team we immediately dedicated ourselves to finding partners capable of thinking like us and, after a few years, we got the first promising results and we decided to create RECARBON. With my son Luca we talked about it to some friends, experts and entrepreneurs in the field, and we all agreed on the goodness of the project. But I would leave it to Luca to add a few words about this new reality.”

A Recarbon panel
A RECARBON panel

JEC Composites Magazine: Technological developments: what are the news regarding materials and processes? Can you give us some info concerning the composites materials?
Paolo Grati: “Natural fibers, carbon fibers from lignite, bioresins, new developments based on nanotechnologies, implementation of many current production processes, like for example with the introduction of induction heating, which easily brings production times to a tenth of the current ones with a strong energy saving, all are potentially good technological developments. The world of composite is extremely alive and constantly looking for solutions that can lead it to face the markets of large volumes such as the mass electric car, railways and many industrial applications.

As mentioned before, the new products and their introduction to replace many metal components, and the development of more controlled and productive processes lead more and more to the use of these new products, and to  increase the culture of composite, just think that nowadays in almost all of our technical universities have dedicated courses, which means that the new generations will be more and more likely to use them.”

JEC Composites Magazine: What are your opinions about the use of hydrogen as fuel?
Paolo Grati: “In the composite industry, hydrogen is beginning to get recognition and many players are studying solutions which can facilitate the integration of H fuel into existing structures. The energy potential of hydrogen raises the greatest interest. As we know, for the same quantity, it provides 2.5 times more energy than gasoline, thanks to a combustion process in which the only emission waste is water. But the production processes of this gas are perhaps still far from meeting all the criteria of sustainability.

The goal of the next few years for the composite industry, will be to create reliable solutions to store and operate fuel cells into electric vehicles, granting a long-life safe working environment.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Clean energy, circular economy, looking towards new openings in the market, are you interested in wind energy?
Paolo Grati: “The wind market is also in strong development, on the one hand with the development and production of blades of extremely different shapes for a better distribution on the territory, on the other with the strong, and a little desperate at the moment, search for a good method to recycle the existing machine park. Also, the pause caused by the pandemic has led industry engineers to have more time to develop new solutions. I am positive and I am starting to see very interesting concepts such as the use of new, more easily recyclable resins, the development of networks of small blades installed along highways or in domestic environments, and why not, the search for new carbon fibers with dedicated properties at reduced costs.”

JEC Composites Magazine: What are your plans for the future? Are you going to focus on any specific industrial area?
Paolo Grati: “As long as curiosity and love for this crazy world support me, I will continue to follow innovation. Thanks to my son Luca, who wanted to follow me years ago and with whom we launched RECARBON, I have the opportunity to dedicate my time to this interesting initiative, but I would leave it to Luca himself to introduce it better.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Hello Luca, can you tell us about RECARBON and your role in the new company?
Luca Grati, CEO of RECARBON: “I started working in the composite materials market in 2011, after graduating.

After my degree, I spent two years enhancing my technical and management skills following different projects in different fields like multiaxials fabrics, production & consultancy companies in Europe and UK, etc. to understand how to collaborate with the industry and how to facilitate the development of new products.

In 2013, I joined GPMC so I had the opportunity to work on circular economy and investigate how to give new value to end-of-life carbon fiber waste.
Now, as CEO of RECARBON, I manage a group of very skilled, open-minded people. Together we offer new intermediate products based on recycled carbon fiber, from organosheets to sandwiches and prepregs.
Goal of RECARBON is to support companies wishing to find a sustainable way of doing business, re-using materials, finding new applications and focusing on research and development of other recycled or bio-based components which are part of our products, like resins, PET cores and honeycombs.

We are happy to say that we already received much appreciation and amazing interest from the market, especially from sectors like automotive, transports and marine, where ready-to-use panels are widely utilized.

As you understand, we cannot yet provide too many information about our recently developed products, enough to say that for their production we can use all types of waste, from fibers to polymerized components, transforming them into intermediate products ready to be offered to our customers in a form that permit the re-introduction into the production cycle. This we mean when we think to “sustainable cycle”: reuse waste, transforming it into intermediate products, to be reintroduced into the production cycle.”

A reuse approach to high performance composites
A re-use approach to high performance composites, creating a solution for whoever wants to explore a second-life for a waste product.
More information www.gpmc.eu