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Exoskeleton for supporting manual lifting and manufacturing process tasks

Project Description

Application details:
Reference number: MTC2019
Starting: 1 October 2019 or 1 January 2020
Closing date: 31 August 2019

Primary supervisor: Dr Niels Lohse
Secondary supervisor: Dr Peter Hubbert

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

The MTC is one of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres in the UK that develops and proves innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile, low risk environment, in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions.

Project Details:

Manually assistive devices such as exoskeletons and co-operative lifting mechanisms have in the past been explored for use in defence applications and military environments. Augmenting a high-value, low-volume manufacturing system with these types of devices, presents a technological “mid-way point” between full lights-out factory automation, and the current status quo of complete human-operated processes. These enabling devices present many advantages over existing factory plants such as cranes, fork-lifts and zero-G lift systems, with the possibility for other broader applications such as work holding or large-scale assembly.
This studentship will focus on the research and development of manually assistive devices for factory situations where full automation is not feasible, but where legacy operations have large human involvement in their completion.

The project will investigate the models, dynamics, control and interactions required for augmenting the lifting and assembly capabilities of expert human workers using assistive devices. The joint dynamics of people, objects and devices within the context of complex hand-eye coordination tasks will need to be modelled and analysed to inform more human intuitive control approaches. The implication of soft and controllable rigid design elements for assistive devices will be investigated. It is expected that future devices will require impedance control of highly nonlinear dynamics under changing contact conditions.

The fundamental modelling and control investigation will be underpinned with the development of prototype assistive device technology (e.g. exoskeletons, controllable rigid joints, co-operative lifting mechanisms, and soft robots) for proof of concept experimental validation. This is expected to lead to more effective and intuitive collaborative operations that maximise the respective strengths of operators and machines.

Entry requirements:

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in Mechanical/Manufacturing/Electrical Engineering/Automation, applied Mathematics or related subject. A relevant master’s degree and/or experience in the following will be an advantage: as above including Robotics/Computer Science or Control Engineering.

Contact details:

Name: Dr Niels Lohse
Email address:
Telephone number: +44 (0)1509 227625 / 225927

How to apply:

All applications should be made online at Under programme name, ‘Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering’

Please quote reference number: MTC2019

Funding Notes

If awarded, the 3-year studentship will provide an enhanced EPSRC tax-free stipend of up to £22,000 p/a, plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate (currently £4,327 p/a). Due to funding restrictions, this award is only available to candidates of UK/EU fee status.

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