The Flexible Sheet Metal Working research group of KU Leuven is part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and houses an interdisciplinary team of engineers and applied scientists focusing on different aspects of manufacturing process and system development for flexible sheet metal based production. The group is targeting systems suitable for versatile small series production, thus facilitating highly customized products, often tailored to individual end-users. For this purpose, the research group develops process technology as well as software systems (from CAD, over automated process and production planning systems to fully automated CAM systems). Present focus is mainly on laser cutting, incremental forming and air bending. The Flexible Sheet Metal Working research group works in close collaboration with industrial partners under long term strategic alliance agreements. This assures access to up-to-date machine tools, measurement solutions as well as software platforms. Industrially viable research output is typically implemented in robust commercial products by these industrial partners, thus providing opportunities for extensive validation and evaluation. For optimization purposes, the research group is closely associated with the Centre for Industrial Management offering joint guidance for algorithmic developments.
- In close collaboration with a press brake manufacturer and a robot system developer, the Flexible Sheet Metal Working research group plans to develop algorithms and simulation solutions for automatic process planning for robotized bending.
- The combinatorial nature of bend sequencing makes this a hard problem for which clever optimization is a necessity in order to assure industrially acceptable processing times. With the versatility of a human operator, the restrictions to be taken into account are less harsh than when dealing with robot part manipulation: this can complicate the optimization search and requires detailed geometric verification of bend sequence solutions. The industrial partners we work with have developed highly flexible hardware systems that facilitate gripping solutions. However, converting the degrees of freedom offered by such systems into geometric reasoning and optimization rules remains a challenge for which a doctoral research project is envisaged.
- The candidate will work closely together with operations research and manufacturing specialists to develop the necessary algorithms and verification modules for developing a fully automatic computer aided process planning system.
- These algorithms will be implemented up to a level that validation based on real data sets can be accommodated.
- Ultimate goal is a fully automated process planning system for robot supported bending that assures short response times in the planning stage and swift execution in an environment that can work autonomously under a 24/7 regime. The research will cover both search algorithm development as well as geometric verification tools for quick feedback assurance.
- For this vacancy solid background knowledge in operations research methods is required. Familiarity with heuristic optimization methods is an advantage. Candidates should be fluent in software implementation, preferably working in C# and Python environments. Experience with geometric modelling techniques and familiarity with AI tools for expert system development and geometric reasoning are assets. Affinity with manufacturing processes in general and sheet metal working in specific will assure a solid motivation. The basics of mechanical engineering should be familiar in order to assess gripping constraints and part flexibility assessment.
- In order to be considered, applicants should have distinguished themselves academically. Please provide full grade transcripts in order to document this, as well as proof of English language proficiency.
- The KU Leuven is a top hundred university with a strong research and innovation tradition. The research will be conducted in close collaboration with industrial partners, maximizing the societal relevance of the work assuring valorization of the reseach achievements.
- The university offers financial conditions equivalent with the salary level of an engineering professional with 1-4 years of experience and full healthcare benefits as well as access to a broad range of facilities.
- Leuven as a city offers a very dynamic and lively living environment in an enjoyable historic setting close to Brussels, in the centre of Europe.