One Shot Printed Multi-Digit Manipulator

The innovative high technology provider HP Inc (HP) and the world renowned Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) have decided to work together to carry out an exciting new research project on creating and developing the technology and techniques that would enable the 3D printing of a multi-digit robot manipulator, in one pass.

Such a process has yet to be developed, but would include construction of the manipulator’s digits, the joints between those digits, together with all the embedded sensing and actuation components. The likely form would be an opposed 3+fingered gripper that will be capable of picking up a modest range of items.

The research work itself will have a strong emphasis on ‘learning from experiment’, i.e., there will be an iterative process of developing prototypes of gradually greater capability, in order to validate the instantiation of approaches that are identified through the conducted research. These prototypes could be partially assembled from sub-components where the technology is not available but is a realistic step away.

Experienced BRL research academics will work together with HP’s senior design engineers to provide guidance throughout the research programme. BRL’s established expertise in state-of-the-art 3D plastic-part printing will be augmented by HP’s specialised skills in the range of properties available, or being investigated, with its advanced Multi Jet Fusion (MJF - powder bed) 3D printing process, as well as its deep knowledge of that which is available in the wider industry.

Of course, this is advanced research, so it cannot be predicted exactly how fast the pace of progress will be. However, if things go well, then the scope could be extended to include the use of manipulator customisation to address established challenges in 3D printing workflow. For example, HP’s MJF process produces ‘cakes’ containing the parts. These are then separated from each other in a dedicated station with the resulting parts that were in the cake all mixed together.  The potential for widely varying shapes, masses and material properties represent a critical challenge for their subsequent handling by automated systems. If the printing of customised manipulators for specific parts could be rendered to be cheap and rapid, then this could form a crucial part of a solution to the handling and sorting of the disparate parts.

The PhD will take place in BRL and will benefit from links with the existing CDT programme within the BRL.

Funding details

The studentship is available from 1 June 2018 for a period of 3.5 years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend at the standard EPSRC rate, which is currently £14,553 per annum. In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to 3.5 years (Home/EU rates only). There is a possibility for overseas applicants to have the full tuition fee rates covered for each year of study.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must have a good honours degree (2.1 or equivalent) in subjects such as electronic engineering, computer science, computer vision, physics, sensor science. A recognised English language qualification is required.

Due to restrictions of the funder (Hewlett Packard) this opportunity is only available to Home or EU applicants only.

How to apply

Download and complete the Graduate School studentship application form and send it directly to the UWE Bristol Graduate School. Please ensure you include the title of the research project you propose to undertake, and detail why you are interested in undertaking this PhD project and what relevant knowledge, experience and qualifications you would bring to the research. See the Graduate School studentship application guidance notes for further information about how to complete the application form.

Please also complete the Equal Opportunities monitoring form and the first section of the Graduate School application reference sheet before sending to your nominated referees.

Please email Professor Tony Pipe at  for an informal discussion about the studentship.

Deadline for applications is midnight on 28 March 2018. Any applications received after this date will not be considered.

Further information

If you have not heard from us by 13 April 2018, we thank you for your application, but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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