Interview with Luca Olivari, LEAP Engineer

Interview with Luca Olivari, LEAP Engineer

We are excited to post an interview given by Composites and Architecture to the structural engineer of the LEAPfactory project, Luca Olivari.  Included are some additional images and diagrams of the project, along with some of their FEA results. Check it out!

Mr Olivari, what is your role in the LEAP project?

I’m the structural designer of the Bivouac. My work mainly involves the structural design of sailing and powerboats, as well as railway components like the front end of the high speed Italian train or the funnels of  cruising Ships like Carnival, Costa, P&O etc.
I drew from this design knowledge  for the Leap project.
Some information on the LEAP Pods:
The engineering was developed on a complete Finite Element Analysis model applying the worst load cases like wind at 200 km/h eight meter snow and maximum furniture and occupants weight.
The target was a strong and stiff structure light enough to be transported by helicopter but at the same time reasonably cheap.
The technology used for the construction was resin infusion in female moulds, considered a standard in the nautical industry.
The materials used where: vinyl ester epoxy based matrix, E glass unidirectional fibers, PVC cores and polyurethane paints.
The project was conceived in several components designed to be glued together with structural adhesives of the methil-methacrilate family.
What made you select GFRP in the first place?
Most of the same properties required for a boat: lightness, fatigue resistance, stiffness, good thermal insulation, nice finish.
The LEAP is made for extreme conditions, can you go into a little more detail to why GFRP works well under these conditions ?
Composite materials allows a lot of solutions, the fiber’s weight and orientations can be exactly defined in every area of the structure to support high concentrated loads. The sandwich construction is the best way to absorb and distribute elastically the stresses of the wind gusts and the snow weight.

If you had to do this over again, what if anything would you do differently?

The “Gervasutti Bivouac” is considered a prototype. There are other solutions to simplify the assembling system, the support legs and several construction details can be improved. The behavior of the first LEAP will give us a lot of information.

Where there any code challenges in using GFRP and if so, how did you overcome them?
Fire restrictions are the main challenge for composite application.
But the rules are applicable only to ships, trains and public buildings like theaters, stadiums, schools, hospitals and so on. The LEAP module (like a caravan) isn’t subjected to any of these codes, mainly because the escape time is very fast. In my experience it’s possible to obtain a good self extinguishing structure, but it’s impossible to maintain the structural integrity of composite materials over 30 or 60 minutes of flame heat.
When someone asks you about the durability of GFPR, how do you answer?
Durability of GFRP is influenced by a lot of parameters: reinforcements and resin choice, construction technique and engineering (fiber orientation etc.) A good fiberglass project is usually superior in durability to an equivalent aluminum structure, carbon fibers have the highest fatigue resistance, better than steel. There are some boats designed and built by me in the early eighties, they have sailed around the world and are still in good shape.