The sky is not the limit

An innovative mind is always at work. Santiago Forcada Pardo, Industrial Design Engineer at Atlas Copco Power Technique in Spain, spent his spare time designing an ultra-durable sensor for space exploration.

space venus

In the daytime, Industrial Design Engineer Santiago Forcada Pardo is part of the Submersible Pumps team at Atlas Copco’s product company in Zaragoza, Spain, where he is responsible for agile product care and for driving design concept development, based on customer focus and quality control. But his creative engineering does not stop when he leaves the office. 

Santiago Forcada Pardo, Industrial Design Engineer at Atlas Copco Power Technique in Spain.

As far back as I can remember, I was always inventing things. You could say that I never lost the innovative spirit that children have. I absolutely believe in innovation as a driver of continuous improvement, and Iʼm inspired by Atlas Copcoʼs belief in always challenging the status quo.

Santiago Forcada Pardo , Industrial Design Engineer

Extreme challenges on Venus

When Santiago heard that NASA was launching an international design contest to collect ideas for an upcoming rover mission to explore the surface of Venus, he jumped on the opportunity to test his design skills. One of the biggest challenges with exploring the Venus surface is how to ensure the sensors can deal with all the hard conditions. On Venus, the surface temperature is more than 450 degrees Celsius and the atmospheric pressure is around 92 times higher than on Earth.

More than 6 000 participants took part in the 2020 competition, and Santiagoʼs design is one of only 15 awarded. NASA will now use the winning designs for starting the final development.

“My contribution was the DEMoN Fire Sensor that can detect stones bigger than 30 cm, holes deeper than 30 cm and slopes bigger than 30 degrees. In addition, it can steer automatically when the rover runs a curve. My solution uses titanium beams and Bowden cables, and has a weight of less than 25 Kg,” Santiago explains.

Putting in the extra hours

Santiago was able to develop the design despite the escalating pandemic situation, with lockdowns and remote working.

“I kept working on the project whenever I could and was reminded that challenges are difficult but not impossible. Exploration is part of human nature, and space is the next frontier. I can now say that I have contributed in a small way.”

So, where do all his ideas come from? “I have been fortunate to work in several technically advanced companies where I have had the chance to learn from some very highly skilled people. Every now and then I get an idea on how to do things differently, and I then share it with my team to check if it makes sense. But the idea is actually not what’s most important. As Edison said: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Innovation is most often about commitment and hard work,” Santiago concludes.