Episode 03 - The Components

Dream Molecules

Interview with
Leonardo Bagnoli,
Ducati Head of Vehicle Simulation.

Materials research has always been an obsession for Ducati. If we think of our founding values, style, sophistication and performance, we find them all in this innovative research activity. The precious materials we work with, especially titanium, magnesium and carbon fibre, are the backbone of the vehicle’s dynamics and at the same time give our racing bikes that unmistakable Ducati look.

We talked about it with Leonardo Bagnoli, Ducati Head of Vehicle Simulation.

“Materials research is extremely expensive and difficult. Because it’s necessary to test different areas, considering the type of material and the best shapes to make it perform at its best. A few millimetres can be the difference between a huge success and a failure”.

The 1708 project takes this extreme approach, which we inherit from our daily activity in the world of GP and SBK competitions, to a completely new, even more complex level. Although extreme in fact, the world of competitions has a limited duration in time. Ducati research is best expressed in exasperating the characteristics of the materials, calculating in advance the number of cycles and the type of mechanical stress to which they will be subjected.

“When doing research there’s an element of challenge. Of solving an enigma. Complexity needs to be dealt with head on and resolved in new ways.

For the 1708 project the challenge was completely different from a racing prototype: we have to achieve extreme performance while safeguarding reliability and meeting type-approval requirements. It’s a question of making the most of the characteristics of materials and components without being able to predict the real stress they will be subjected to, creating components with experimental technologies to apply them to a motorcycle that’s not just for a single specific rider, but must be ready for standard type-approval. The component we design doesn’t just have to get through 10 races. It has to last forever. And so the work of calculation and simulation is twice as much as for any other bike we produce”.

 

 

Each component is studied with techniques and technologies in which art, craftsmanship and industry meet. We follow a testing process usually applied in aeronautics, each component passes thermographic, ultrasound and even tomographic checks. We do a CT scan of each piece to verify the internal structure as well as the external one.

The Leonardo team divides the tasks and each engineer takes care of bringing a single component of the 1708 project to perfection, carrying out the necessary virtual tests to push each material to the maximum. An important example is the new carbon rear swingarm, where for the first time it has been possible to apply unidirectional carbon, a very difficult material to tame. Unidirectional carbon is highly performing due to the relationship between weight and stiffness, but highly anisotropic and therefore complex to stabilize.

“The complexity of the surfaces greatly influences the possibility of using a futuristic material like single-sided carbon, so we had to completely redesign the geometry of the rear swinging arm to improve it, in a constant dialogue with the design center to remain consistent with Ducati design. Morphological optimisation was one of the activities that occupied us the most in testing and virtual resistance simulations. The result is a specific stiffness ratio never achieved before. A bike lightened in all the most peripheral loads and therefore incredibly more agile and manageable. But also more stable thanks to the new geometries”.

 

 

The balance achieved is really of the highest level, even in the combination of different types of carbon in the frame, in which chemical compatibility was also sought, between resins and materials. Experimental research is not an end in itself, it is an aspirational statement for the whole company. And it is the activity with which Ducati constantly strives to raise the bar for itself and for the world of motorcycling.

“For a structural engineer, defining lightweight structures, working on the most exclusive motorcycle on the planet is a way of seeing knowledge applied in an actual project that is able to put it to use. Take performance to the extreme. Find professional satisfaction by using all the skills learned over the years in a unique project”.