About Paolo Colombo

Paolo Colombo is the Aerospace & Defense Global Industry Director at ANSYS. He was born in Italy in 1970, joined the Air Force as student pilot in 1992 and, though his career took a different path, he is still regularly flying. From 1999 his passion for advanced technologies brought him to work with companies' managers and executives on emerging technologies in product engineering, rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing and engineering simulation. He joined ANSYS in 2010. Paolo holds a BSc and an MBA majoring in Innovation management.

What We Can Learn from the Wright Brothers on National Aviation Day

Tomorrow is Orville Wright’s birthday and we celebrate National Aviation Day and the incredible progress made in aviation in just over 100 years. It was December 1903 when Orville became the first pilot of an engine powered aircraft, staying aloft for 12 seconds and covering a distance of 120 ft. at 20 ft AGL. Five years later he was able to stay aloft for an entire hour, reaching an altitude of 350 ft.

Indeed, the Wright brothers are a great example for all those who want to innovate. Many pioneers lost their lives or were badly injured in their attempt to demonstrate their ideas, test new concepts and to tame phenomena they were still not able, sometimes very far, to understand and master. Continue reading

The Engineering Behind Why It’s Too Hot to Fly

I’ve read a lot of articles talking about an interesting fact: this summer was so hot that in some cities like Phoenix aircraft could not fly. If you are an engineer or a pilot, it should not be a surprise that in hot weather an aircraft’s performance can deteriorate until the point it is unsafe to attempt take off. But maybe you have not considered all the possible causes of why it’s too hot to fly. I will try to explain things in a very basic and simplified way, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with these phenomena.

American Airlines canceled dozens of flights out of Phoenix on June 19 due to extreme heat. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Why Startups and New Players are Driving Innovation in the Space 2.0 Arena

With a clear mission in mind, huge government funding and thousands of talented scientists, the early pioneers of space exploration were disrupting innovators, able to achieve what many thought impossible. Then organizations grew in size, and projects and goals multiplied while public funding was often in doubt. Despite other significant success, this led to a slowdown in the innovation pace. Now, another wave of innovators has come: Space 2.0 players.

With no history, no legacy of tools and processes and no constraints in workflow design, they were able in a few years to attract huge private funds and challenge the leadership of the big established players.

Both the old players and the newcomers rely on simulation, but I see a big difference in the results they get in terms of efficiency, costs and innovation pace. The secret is in how they implement it. Continue reading

The Next Generation of Aircraft is Different from Anything You’ve Seen Before

A few weeks ago I got a very close look at a F-35, and was able to talk a bit with one of the test pilots. “This is not an aircraft,” he told me. It’s more a kind of spaceship.” I believe he is right. This is not an aircraft, at least not the kind of aircraft we are used to.

Two generations, face to face

Courtesy G.P. Torriani

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Ready for Take-off and Flight

image of Paolo Columbo in jetThe last time I flew on a military plane was 20 years ago, but I still remember the incredible emotion I felt. It was exactly the same way I felt recently while scrolling the check-list from the rear seat of an L39 Albatros as I got it ready for take-off and flight.

Picture this: All the caution-panel yellow and red lights in front of me are on, since this is a routine test. Even so, I can’t avoid thinking about the complexity of the plane, which is a basic jet aircraft compared to today’s standard: It was designed in the 1970s as an advanced trainer for pilots. There is no fly-by-wire system. It incorporates a simple avionic and no embedded software. This means that the pilot has to do all of the work. Continue reading

The New Frontier of Embedded Software Cont’d

Continuing from my post yesterday about the new frontier of embedded software.

Nowadays it is not enough to just fly the plane, pilots have to manage tons of information while flying and they are connected with  other units on the battlefield through a network that allows real time co-ordination.

image of the F-104 Starfighter Cockpit

F-104 Starfighter Cockpit

image of Lockheed Martin F22A Raptor Cockpit

Lockheed Martin F22A Raptor Cockpit

Have you seen the cockpit of a new generation aircraft? Google the F-22 or the F-35 and compare them with the one from an F-104;  you will not recognize a single piece of equipment. Head to YouTube and enjoy a video showing the maneuverability of one of these modern airplanes. Amazing!

Today simulation is widely used, aerodynamics is now explored in detail so engineers can master all the phenomena that affect the flight even in extreme conditions, and new configurations allow these aircraft to challenge physics laws… and win!!  I’ve seen a Eurofighter Typhoon during a test flight operate at 80 knots and at no more than 100 feet from the runway — almost still in the air — flying with an angle of attack of 60 degrees. This could have been considered science fiction by an F-104 pilot.  I’m amazed by the maneuverability of the F-22 or what an SU37 can do. I’m always impressed and fascinated with how aircraft designers created these masterpieces of engineering. Continue reading

The New Frontier of Embedded Software – Part One

A few months ago at the ANSYS Worldwide Sales Conference, I had the opportunity to view the many advancements and get briefed on other news concerning our simulation platform. As part of this learning experience, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting our newest colleagues from Esterel Technologies and finding out how embedded software is becoming key in the development of a new generation of products. From aerospace to automotive and transportation, from medical devices to energy generation plants, it is an important piece of the Simulation-Driven Product Development vision. In a 2-part blog, I’ll explain what this means to me.

Part One

image of the Lockheed F-104C Starfighter

Lockheed F-104C Starfighter

As I’ve mentioned before I’m quite fond of aircraft, so I’ll illustrate this point by talking about some very famous military planes, starting with the glorious Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. This incredible aircraft was designed in the early 1950’s by a myth among engineers — Kelly Johnson. His goal was to create a light, easy-to-maintain, simple and cost-effective airplane that would climb as fast as possible to operating height and engage in hostile contact with radar-guided missiles. Continue reading

Simulation for Military Aircraft Ejection Seats

I’ve always been passionate about aircraft. When I served in the Air Force and took my pilot training, I learned a lot about how systems on military planes work. One of the most amazing components, to me, was the ejection seat, probably one of the most complex pieces of equipment on board.

image of parachute system

Drogue parachute system analysis with inset submodel of the critical area using nonlinear material properties. Courtesy CTC.

Even if the purpose of the seat is clear and simple — to provide the pilot a safe and immediate way out of the aircraft in case of accident — its job is a very tough one. The seat has to work in emergency conditions; it represents the last chance for a pilot to leave a severely damaged aircraft, maybe spiraling out of control. This system must be designed not to  fail despite the critical, varied and unpredictable conditions in which it will be used. That’s quite a challenge for designers! Let me give you an example. Continue reading

Harnessing Energy Through Simulation

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but we are living on a spaceship called Earth. It’s a big one, with more than 7 billion people on board, traveling at about 108,000 Km/h (67,500 mph) in the solar system, while spinning in such a way that, if you are on the equator line, you are moving at more than 1,700 Km/h (1,000 mph). Amazing, isn’t it?

image of ozone hole NASA

The ozone hole max is on Sept. 22, 2012. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

In our travel through the universe, we are protected from outer space by our pressurized canopy: a 12 Km-thick barrier limited by an ozone layer that acts as a shield against radiation and small asteroids. It also allows us to breathe fresh air. It’s a very complex ship, with systems designed to provide the passengers (us) with anything we need to have a very pleasant journey: food, energy, water and fun. But it was designed 4.5 billion years ago, and there were no human beings at that time asking for so much energy to cool down their houses in summer, heat them up in winter, drive a big car, fly in a plane, or produce goods.

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Executives in Milan Innovate to Compete

Historically, ANSYS has been well known by engineers. But in the last several years, more and more executives and entrepreneurs have become interested in understanding what simulation software is and how they can implement it into their companies’ product development cycles. We say “Innovate to Compete.”

At a recent executive conference held in Italy, over 200 top executives met with ANSYS and other business partners. I can easily see why they were interested: An executive’s role is to look ahead, envisioning the products that will represent the future of their businesses. A company leader needs to find ways to create value in a very competitive environment, in which winning the market often means investing heavily in new ideas and facing the risks that come with radical innovation.

image of attendees at Innovate per Competere 2012 in Italy

Today, simulation software supplies insight so a leader can implement a strategic decision, understand which is the right product idea to invest in, determine if the innovation is feasible or not, and have confidence that this new product can realize the promises they are making to customers and shareholders. Today, entrepreneurs can soundly base their choices on virtual testing of thousands of hypotheses, taking into consideration unique ideas that can become breakthrough smart products. Simulation is helping them look into the future of their product’s strategy and make better decisions. That’s the reason behind why an executive meeting like this can be so successful.

Take a moment to view a video that features some conference participants. It is in Italian, but you’ll find an English translation below.

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