Research Opportunities

We are interested in receiving applications from high quality candidates for PhD research in the field of Design Management.

Potential applicants should have (or be expect to obtain) a first class (or equivalent) degree in engineering, design or a related discipline. An excellent command of the English language, both oral and written is essential. Students under my supervision will be expected to publish their work in leading conferences and journals.


Initial inquiries should be directed to the Principal Investigator Dr James Moultrie. Further details about the formal application procedure are available here.


EPSRC PhD Scholarship: Design for Additive Manufacturing

Project Title: Dimensional precision and robustness of Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) additive manufacturing processes


We have funding from the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) for a PhD studentship starting in October 2017.


For designers, there is an intimate relationship between the emergence of new production processes and the potential to create new things in new ways. Additive Manufacturing (AM) presents designers with a unique set of new possibilities, to design new components with new shapes. Fused Deposition Modelling has become one of the most ubiquitous of AM processes, due to the comparatively low cost of these machines. However, the utility of FDM to designers is limited by the performance capabilities of these machines, especially with complex or small structures. As a result, much of the use is by ‘hobbyists’ and many parts require several iterations of production due to inaccuracies in manufacture. Whilst most machine brochures cite ‘resolution’ and axis speed as an indicator of performance, dimensional precision is extremely often not indicated.


This project will explore the dimensional capability of 3D printing technologies, and specifically FDM machines. The first output will be a greater understanding of the current capability of different machines, which is essential data if these technologies are to be used be designers. This data will be used to deliver the second output, the re-design of an FDM machine using the principles of robust machine tool design. The aim of the work is to produce an FDM machine with higher levels of dimensional precision than are currently available.


The supervisor will be Dr James Moultrie and the advisor for will be Dr Ronan Daly, both at the Institute for manufacturing, University of Cambridge.


The PhD student will conduct experiments on as wide a set of FDM machines as is possible (linking with colleagues around this and other universities. This will include a baseline study of machine repeatability as well as the characterisation of dimensional accuracy over the full build volume. These experiments will also establish the interdependencies and impact of different process settings on print quality.


It is expected that the student will analyse the outputs from the experimental phase in relation to the underlying machine design principles adopted, to determine how the machine design might influence the variations seen. Outputs from this phase will be used to design a new FDM machine, with the objective of producing parts with a high level of dimensional accuracy and repeatability.


Expected outcomes

  • A comprehensive understanding of the manufacturing precision of existing FDM machines. 
  • Understanding how the underlying machine design for FDM machines might impact on dimensional accuracy and repeatability.
  • The design of a new FDM machine based on robust machine design principles to improve on current dimensional accuracy and repeatability.

Candidate profile
With, or expected to gain a high 2:1, preferably a 1st class honours degree in Manufacturing or Mechanical Engineering or related subject. A good knowledge or experience of Engineering Design.


Applicants from the UK are eligible for a full award, full University and College fees and a maintenance allowance of at least £14,057 per year. Applicants from the EU are only eligible for a fees only award unless they can be deemed a Home student, i.e., have been permanent residents in the UK for the 3 years preceding October 2017. Overseas applicants are not eligible for this scholarship.


Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Dr James Moultrie before submitting an application. Applications should be made on-line via the Cambridge Graduate Admissions Office before 31 January 2017.

Other potential PhD topics

These are indicative project areas and are not associated with specific funding. Applicants should only consider applying if they are confident they can secure finance themselves.

Exceptional candidates may be eligible for entry to the Graduate Funding Competition. The deadline for (non US-resident applicants) applications is 7 December 2016. Successful candidates generally have (or expect to receive) an equivalent of a first class honours degree from a leading university.

Designing education in the 21st Century

This project is seeking to understand the impact of new digital technologies for both designing and making on design education in the 21st Century. A specific focus for this project will be to understand the nature of educational design ‘briefs’ and the extent to which ‘constraints’ may change at different stages of education. 


Valuing design: longitudinal analysis of company performance against evidence of design as a strategic priority

This project will take data from publically available sources (e.g. company reporting, press etc) and primary sources (e.g. interviews) in order to build a comprehensive database of evidence to explore the specific relationship between company performance and company perspectives on design.


Valuing design: firm level indicators of design capability and performance

There have been many attempts to analyse the value of design at a firm level, with varying degrees of success. This project will seek to build a comprehensive set of measures that can be applied at a firm level in order to measure and evaluate the potential impact of design on company performance.

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