The 2021 SIMULIA Champions come from multiple industries across the globe. We recently spoke with Andrea Giampieri from Tetra Pak in Italy to find out more about his engineering career and his passion for simulation.
Andrea Giampieri sums up his love of simulation by drawing parallels with another passion, puzzle solving. “Simulation is like puzzle solving – when you find the root cause of an issue that’s troubling you, it’s incredibly satisfying.” Giampieri has loved solving puzzles since he was a young boy. “I was very curious as a child, and I still am; I like to discover and solve problems – and this is why I love mathematics and physics – they are both like puzzle solving, but on a much bigger scale.”
Giampieri’s passion led him to study civil engineering in Milan. “I soon realized that civil engineering wasn’t for me – concrete didn’t really interest me,” he says. “So I was lucky enough to get into the field of applied mathematics. From here, my interest in finite element analysis – the simulation of physical things using mathematics – grew and grew.” Giampieri chose to write his thesis on finite element analysis techniques for modeling the mechanical response of crease lines in carton-based packaging – and used SIMULIA technology as part of that work. “It was this that led me to the multinational food packaging and processing company Tetra Pak. I began working in the advanced department for computations as a development engineer – again using SIMULIA technology. I did that for over a decade before being promoted into my current role as a technology specialist, where I run simulations every day.”
Tetra Pak is no ordinary packaging company. “When most people think about product packaging, they think of something that gets made and then filled, but at Tetra Pak, however, we do a little bit of magic because we actually fill the package before it is formed. We’ve basically reversed the typical idea of how packaging works.”
70 Years in the Making
Reversed packaging was an innovation that made the founder of Tetra Pak, Ruben Rausing, famous over 70 years ago. “Rausing came up with the idea of forming, filling, and sealing packaging from a paper tube,” says Giampieri. “This means that the whole process could take place without interruption since a paper web is continuously formed into a cylinder, which is then continuously fed with a product – milk being a prime example. It means that packages are completely filled, without air, leading to greater shelf life.” Much of the original process remains the same today. “The advantage of this way of packaging products is that we can guarantee that the contents will be safe, and this is actually our mission – to deliver safe products everywhere in the world. And I think we are doing it in a really smart way.”
Tetra Pak has not become what it is today by simply resting on the laurels of its founder. The company faces many new challenges; efficiency, production capacity, and product integrity are all issues the company faces. “We have a lot more issues to consider today compared with 70 years ago. We have to be more efficient and create machines that have greater production capacities but without affecting the integrity of the product. The packaging we create needs to look good, too – our customers want their products to stand out on shelves so that they attract consumers. And then there are issues around packaging materials and machine interaction, which is actually the field I’m working in, specifically around sustainability and reducing the amount of plastic we use in our products.”
The Solution Comes From Simulation
Simulation is key to solving many of the problems Tetra Pak is facing. “Many of the issues that we face in optimizing the packaging material and machine interaction are now simulated daily because we want to avoid trial and error as much as we can,” Giampieri says. “As an example, we are using cutting edge technology to simulate how our machines can work faster and faster. Some of our machines produce 40,000 packages per hour, and we have to simulate the impact of this speed on the specific products our customers have us pack and on the paperboard itself as live material.” This means running advanced simulations for every one of the products that pass through Tetra Pak’s production facilities. “It means that we can prevent downtime as we can see what’s going on inside the packaging, as well as outside it. We can also run a root-cause analysis of any defects that we find when the packages are produced, which helps us optimize tool geometries or the material itself to prevent it from happening again.”
Solving these kinds of problems is the work that Giampieri does day in and day out. “My work is essentially to solve problems that most people never even think about. When someone grabs a package on the shelf, they don’t necessarily realize how much technology and engineering is involved in the creation of it. I find it fascinating. The packages we create are engineered with so much precision – much like a skyscraper, in fact. They have these amazing structures, which can withstand many loads, and a lot of handling. It’s incredibly satisfying to be involved in their final creation, and to get there using simulation technologies.”
Giampieri credits SIMULIA technologies for making his work so enjoyable. “Without the solution, I wouldn’t be able to problem-solve to the same degree,” he says. “For example, using SIMULIA, we are currently trying to simulate fluid-structure interaction. This is critical for us since so many of our packages contain liquids. It’s in the early days, but I think we can obtain results that we’ve never been able to reach so far. I find it all so exciting, which is why it’s such an honor to be a SIMULIA champion. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m incredibly grateful.”
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