PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
Development of an Intelligent, Robotic Manufacturing Cell for Rotational Moulding
Rotational moulding is an extremely important industrial process that is used for the manufacture of large, hollow plastic products. For more than 30 years, QUB has been at the forefront of technological advances that have included the development of process monitoring (Rotolog™) and process simulation (Rotosim™) systems. The latest innovation currently on trial at QUB is the use of a fully programmable robotic arm to replace the simple two-axis, fixed arm rotating systems that are commonly found in the industry. This breakthrough represents a fundamental step change in the capabilities of the rotational moulding process and it is the catalyst for this project. The vision is to create an entirely autonomous manufacturing cell where the movement of the robotically driven mould is directed and controlled through an intelligent system that uses a combination of signals from in-process sensors and predictions from the process simulation. The core research work will be the integration of the data derived from real-time process measurement and simulation with the robotic system, and it is fully interdisciplinary as it demands the expertise of mechanical engineers in rotational moulding, simulation and robotics, and electrical engineers in signals processing, data analytics and process control. The project will require a dynamic individual, with strong leadership potential and organisational skills to fully exploit this opportunity by drawing together the work of an existing team of interdisciplinary researchers with the international industrial consortium that is developing the robotic moulding system. This is led by the Belgium company AMS, who are a worldwide service provider in robotic & PLC manufacturing systems. AMS will offer placements at its Belgium research centre totalling 8 weeks that will provide specialist technical and skills training along with opportunities for engagement with global customers. These include the petrochemicals giant, Total, who are partners in the robotic system.