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Structural design and optimisation of 3D-printed polymers

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 15, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Additive Manufacturing (AM) brings with it significant design freedoms, permitting complex forms to be incorporated in high-value components for high-impact applications. By definition, AM is “the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D-model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies”. Therefore, by its nature, AM is an “additive” process which can be more cost effective than traditional “subtractive” manufacturing technologies, particularly for complex or intricate designs which would represent a challenge to traditional fabrication processes.
As far as polymers are concerned, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polylactide (PLA) are the most common polymers that are used along with additive manufacturing technologies. Other than these two common materials, other polymers such as polyphenyl sulfone and polycarbonate are suitable for being 3D-printed, even though their use requires more complex additive manufacturing technological solutions. Polymers can be additively manufactured from powder, wires and flat sheets that are melted using a variety of techniques.
The considerations reported above clearly suggest that, thanks to its unique features, AM is a powerful candidate to become, in the near future, the key fabrication technology daily used to make bespoke surgical implants of PLA due to its biocompatibility and the FDA approval for its use clinically. This can be done provided that this technology is properly exploited and employed. In this challenging scenario, the present PhD project aims then to turn AM into a tool that can be used safely and effectively to improve the health of those patients in need of implant surgery.
One of the major limitations associated with the conventional technologies which are commonly used to fabricate implants of PLA is that the use of pre-made moulds does not allow bespoke solutions to be manufactured quickly and at a low cost. In other words, the existing implants are designed and fabricated by referring to standard/reference geometries and dimensions, so that, by their nature, these implants are not capable of meeting the specific/unique physiological/clinical requirements of the individuals being treated. Unfortunately, this becomes a very critical issue especially with children whose rapidly evolving physiology would require the use of ad hoc implant solutions.
In this challenging scenario, the ambitious aim of this PhD project is to formalise, develop and implement an innovative design/manufacturing allowing bespoke implants of PLA to be designed, optimised (in terms of both shape and strength), and manufactured, with this being done by taking into account the unique specific needs of every individual patient. The outcomes from this PhD project are then expected to markedly “improve health for everyone”, with an exceptionally positive impact especially on children.

The Candidate
• A relevant connection with the UK, usually established by residence - The stipend covers Home fees only.
• An upper second class honours degree, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience equivalent to that level - The successful candidates for this position must hold a good relevant undergraduate or MSc degree (Civil/Structural/Mechanical Engineering, Computational Mechanics, Materials Science).

The successful candidate must start on the 28th of September 2020

Next steps
All enquiries about project, funding mechanism, and application process should be e-mailed to Professor Luca Susmel () – personal webpage: Application deadline: 15/03/2020.

Funding Notes

This is available as a Directly Funded Project as well as a Self-Funded Project.

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Civil and Construction Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

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

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