A STEP-NC Enabled Digital Thread for Closed-loop Quality Control of Additive Manufacturing

   School of Computing and Engineering

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  Dr Shan Lou, Dr Xianzhi Zhang, Dr Wenhan Zeng, Prof Jane Jiang  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


Additive manufacturing (AM) is significantly shaping the future of manufacturing towards a flexible and on-demand approach and accelerating the transformation from the conventional manufacturing industry to Industry 4.0. To facilitate the uptake of AM technologies into a wider range of applications and foster AM’s full commercialisation, there must be focused attempts to overcome existing technical barriers. A major challenge is the quality control of AM products, which is particularly important for key industrial sectors, e.g. aerospace and healthcare. To enable the close-loop AM quality control, the digital thread throughout various stages of AM production must secure the bi-directional data flow to avoid redundancy and loss of digital information. The majority of current AM digital threads is still based on the conventional solution, e.g. STL and G-code. These technologies, however, cannot facilitate the smooth and reliable digital flow of the CAD-CAM-CAPP-CNC-Inspection chain. For instance, STL is commonly used in AM for the exchange of data between the CAD model and the CAM and/or hardware of the AM system. It enables an approximation of CAD, but does not provide the information of material, tolerance, manufacturing process, and inspection. G-code is a well-established standard to specify elementary actions and tool movements. However, it does not promote the mutual communication between CNC and CAD/CAM systems. In comparison, the new STandard for Exchange of Product data model compliant NC (STEP-NC) provides a high-level data model to represent not only toolpath information but also all the information related to product, process, resource, control, and inspection.

This PhD project will construct a digital thread platform based on STEP-NC with an aim to facilitate the closed-loop quality control of AM products. A major concern will be placed to the optimisation of AM layer-wise build. This will require the development of STEP-NC model to accommodate AM process simulation and optimisation, AM tool path generation, and part geometry inspection.


3 years full time research covering tuition fees and a tax free bursary (stipend) starting at £15,609 for 2021/22 and increasing in line with the EPSRC guidelines for the subsequent years


3 years Full-time plus 12 months writing up (please note that no funding is available for the writing up period)

Entry Requirements

1) Hold a high-grade qualification, at least the equivalent of a UK First or 2:1 class degree or MSc in engineering or related disciplines

2) Be proficient in both written and spoken English, and possess excellent presentation and communication skills

3) Possess basic experience and skills in additive manufacturing/3D printing, CNC, and programming

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries can be addressed to Dr Lou ([Email Address Removed]).

How to apply

1) Interested applicants should send an up-to-date curriculum vitae, academic transcript and certificates to Dr. Lou ([Email Address Removed]). 

2) Complete the Expression of Interest Form 2022

3) Provide copies of transcripts and certificates of all relevant academic and/or any professional qualifications.

4) Provide references from two individuals


Application closing date: 30 April 2022

Project start date:1 October 2022

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