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University of Bath URSA project: In-situ robotic sensing for large volume manufacturing

   Department of Mechanical Engineering

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  Dr Runan Zhang  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the University of Bath URSA competition.


Modern large-volume manufacturing aims to achieve high yield, high precision, and robust production of large mechanical parts and structures, which are difficult to move to coordinate measuring system (CMM) to perform standard inspections and measurements. An in-situ measuring system is essential for checking manufacturing errors inside manufacturing environment in a timely manner. One solution is to operate optical sensors with serial robots, which feature small footprints and large work volumes.

However, the serial structure makes the industrial robots suffer from multiple sources of errors, limiting robot accuracies to millimetre levels, which are not comparable to the micrometre level accuracy of positioning stages that are used in surface measurements. To bridge the gap in accuracies, a smart sensor handling end effector must be developed stabilise sensor movements when taking measurements. By modifying an industrial serial robot, the new system will make use of large volume of the serial robot and high-precision movements of the smart sensor handling end effector.

The challenges arise from trajectory planning and motion control of a such robotic sensing system. The robot arm would be characterized to identify its limitations in producing fine movements. Positioning technologies with micrometre level accuracy would be embedded in the sensor handling end effector, which will produce both the designated position and orientation of the sensors in taking measurements. Algorithms would be developed to coordinate and plan the robot movements and the end effector movements to minimise induced errors in sensor operation. Special considerations are needed for segmenting the task of surface scanning over a large target that is difficult to complete in a single measurement. Once the measurement task is completed, the obtained results would be fused to produce a model of the actual part, and to be compared with the design to produce a map of machining errors.

This Ph.D. project will involve the design, make, modelling, and characterization of a novel robotic sensing system, the development of algorithms for trajectory planning, motion control and data fusion. Theoretical concepts and design solutions will be taken through to practical implementation and experimental evaluation

Candidate Requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement by February 2023 in order to be considered for funding.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are encouraged! Direct these to Dr Runan Zhang - [Email Address Removed]

Please make a formal application should via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Mechanical Engineering

When completing the form, please identify your application as being for the URSA studentship competition in Section 3 Finance (question 2) and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. 

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements:

  • UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We value a diverse research environment and strive to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We encourage applications from under-represented groups. In particular, we are welcoming applications from candidates with Refugee, Asylum Seeker, or Humanitarian Protection in the UK to our Doctoral Sanctuary Studentship in Engineering and Design.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

The Disability Service ensures that individuals with disabilities are provided the support that they need. If you state if your application that you have a disability, the Disability Service will contact you as part of this process to discuss your needs.

Keywords: Applied Mathematics; Integrated Engineering; Mathematical Modelling; Mechanical Engineering; Mechatronics; Robotics

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a University of Bath (URSA) studentship tenable for 3.5 years. Funding covers tuition fees at the ‘Home’ rate, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) and a £1000/annum training budget.
As URSA studentships only cover the ‘Home’ tuition fee rate, Overseas students are not eligible to apply. Are you an Outstanding Overseas student (e.g. with a UK Masters Distinction or international equivalent) who is interested in this project? If so, please contact the intended supervisor in the first instance, to discuss the possibility of applying for additional funding.

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