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PhD in Manufacturing Technology: Car makers scrap half their metal - but silversmiths don’t

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding
    Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

Project Description

At present almost half of the sheet metal purchased worldwide to make car body structures is scrapped and re-melted, reducing profitability and increasing resource/energy use. Yet silversmiths, using ancient craft techniques like spinning, sinking and raising shape their sheets of metal into exotic forms with no waste at all, carefully controlling the metal’s deformation with shaped hammers and anvils. Is it possible to achieve the speed of today’s mass-manufacturing techniques (mainly deep-drawing) with the material efficiency of the silversmiths?

The Use Less Group has been working on this problem for the past four years, and last year filed a patent for a new process that we think will achieve this combination. Our calculations show that this process could lead to a very significant reduction in the embodied emissions of products made with sheet metal and if it works as well as we hope, it could lead to a significant transformation of industrial practice.
In order to evaluate the new process, we have built two experimental test rigs to confirm that the sheet deforms as we anticipate. The initial results from these trials are encouraging and we are now in the process of manufacturing and assembling a fully automated industrial demonstrator process which will be commissioned in Q2 2019. Now we want to push the boundaries of our new process - how far can we go in moving the metal around, and what are the limits to what we can achieve?

This PhD project offers the opportunity for the right applicant to apply and use the new machine, to explore and stretch its operating boundaries, through a combination of experiments, simulation and analysis. The research will involve the design and evaluation of tooling used in the new machine, testing the response of different materials to the process and pending the outcome of early trials, developing the process towards mass production. The successful candidate will develop and bring to bear skills in machine design, process analysis, automation and control, and material characterisation.

Because the process is so new, there is no information about it on the web. However, the Use Less Group website http://www.uselessgroup.org describes other novel processes we have developed and sets them in the overall context of our work – which aims to mitigate industrial greenhouse gas emissions by reducing global demand for new materials.

This PhD is open to applicants who already have funding, or those who meet the strict eligibility requirements of the department’s EPSRC DTA scheme which are set out at https://epsrc.ukri.org/skills/students/help/eligibility/.’

Please note that any offer of funding will be conditional on securing a place as a PhD student. Candidates will need to apply separately for admission through the University’s Graduate Admissions application portal; this can be done before or after applying for this funding opportunity. Note that there is a £60 fee for PhD applications. The applicant portal can be accessed via: http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/egegpdpeg . The final deadline for PhD applications is 30 June 2019, although it is advisable to apply earlier than this.

Applicants who meet these criteria should send their CV and a covering letter explaining their interest in the project and the skills they would like to bring to bear on it to Professor Julian Allwood at

How good is research at University of Cambridge in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 177.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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