Making additive manufacturing sustainable using X-ray imaging

Additive manufacturing (AM) is an emerging digital manufacturing technology that produces components with complex shapes.

For metals, a key AM process is laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) technology, which fuses powder particles into components, layer-by-layer, directly from a digital file.

Enabling powder recycling (or reuse) is a key driver to make LPBF sustainable and cost-effective. However, the impact of recycled and reused powder on product quality is not well understood, with a multitude of factors to consider: oxygen pick-up, powder contaminations, and moisture.

This project will use world-leading X-ray techniques (laboratory and synchrotron) to gain a better fundamental understanding of the impact of these factors on the properties of AM components. The post holder will be working with Carpenter Additive (CA) - a world-leading powder manufacturer with a 20 per cent global powder market share, who are co-funding the project.

This PhD studentship will tackle the above challenge by: (1) characterising the powder quality using CA’s proprietary powder condition analysis technology, (2) revealing their impact on surface dynamics, e.g. spatter, in addition to, the melt pool and defect dynamics during LPBF, (3) using a combination of a unique AM process replicator (developed by UCL), ultra-fast in-situ synchrotron X-ray imaging, and advanced image analysis.

The expected research outcomes will provide key insights on which powder quality has the most influence on AM process, e.g. the fluid flow behaviour and defect formation in the melt pool. The extracted information could also be used to develop next-generation powder characterisation technology. The work will play a crucial role in the qualification of materials and process for AM, helping end-users to decide when powders should be reused or recycled.

This project is integrated with MAPP. The PhD research will be based at the Harwell Campus, working in the UCL Materials, Structures, and Materials group at Harwell (MSM@H). The post holder will have access to advanced characterisation facilities at the Harwell Campus, UCL Bloomsbury Campus, Henry Royce Institute, and CA’s research and development facilities.

Person specification: Applicants should ideally have a first-class, or equivalent, undergraduate degree in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, or a related discipline. Excellent organisational, interpersonal, and communication skills, along with a stated interest in interdisciplinary research, are essential. Ideally, you would have experience in one, or more, of the following:

  • Metallurgy
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Image analysis and/or X-ray imaging
  • Matlab and Python programming

Start date: Anytime from now

Value of award: The studentship provides four years fees (home rate) and a stipend of (£18,609 in 2021/22, rising with inflation each year).

Eligibility: Only HOME students are eligible to apply. Please DO NOT enquire about this studentship if you are ineligible.

Application Procedure: Click here for application guidelines.  Prospective candidates are highly encouraged to email: Dr Chu Lun Alex Leung for an informal discussion before applying. A recent CV, the full transcript of exam results (listing all subjects and their corresponding grades/marks), and a cover letter stating how the project meets your research interests must be included. Individuals in their final year of study should list all modules/grades for which the results are already known. Lastly, the names and contact details of two referees are required for the application.