PhD studentship: Manufacturing Free-Form Inflated Thin-walled Steel Structural Members

Loughborough University - School of Civil and Building Engineering

Application details:

Reference number:  CBEARCH17/RC

Start date: by 1 July 2018

Closing date: Sunday 6 May 2017

Interview date: w/c 14 May 2018


Primary supervisor: Dr Rachel Cruise

Secondary supervisor: Dr Alessandro Palmeri


In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the School was ranked first for research environment in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning, with 95% of research rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for its influence on society, the economy and policy. The School boasts world class facilities, with £1.4m recently invested in the 3,000m2 laboratory facilities and a £1.24m High Performance Computing facility – one of the UK’s fastest clusters.

The funding for this PhD is aligned with a much larger financial commitment by the University to support the integration of a new undergraduate programme in Architecture within the School. As part of this development, £1.5 million is being spent on new facilities and resources. The recruitment of staff will expand the University’s research expertise in three strategic areas: Digital Design, Tectonics, and Urban Theory & Design.

Project Detail:

The three-year PhD studentship will be based in the School of Civil and Building Engineering, starting in July 2018.

The current manufacture of thin-walled steel structural members is made efficient through the process of ‘roll-forming’, where members of constant cross-sections are mass-produced from steel sheet.

This PhD will develop the understanding of a novel metal-forming process: ‘free-form inflation’. This process uses very low pressure air to form steel sheet without a tool or die and offers the potential to easily manufacture bespoke shapes with non-constant cross-sections, therefore creating more structurally efficient members.

Through prototyping ’free-form inflated’ members, using low pressure inflation, CADCAM laser cutting and testing different automated joining techniques for the steel sheet, this project will focus on establishing the predictability of shape formation and evaluating the potential cost and energy efficiency of this novel manufacturing process. The research outcomes are to develop and evaluate the viability of ‘free-form inflation’ to offer a cost- and energy-efficient production route for bespoke shaped thin-walled steel structural members, thereby increasing the efficiency with which steel is used for structural applications.

Find out more:

Entry requirements:

Applicants will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent), in structural engineering or other relevant subject. A relevant Master’s degree and/or employment experience will be an advantage. An understanding of both material and structural behaviour is desirable for this project.

Funding information:

The studentship is for three years and provides a tax-free stipend of £14,553 a year (rising in line with the level set by the Research Council) plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. Non-UK/EU applicants may apply – tuition fees will be funded in full, but you will need to fund your living expenses.

Contact details:

For information about the research project, please contact:

Name: Dr Rachel Cruise

Email address:

Telephone number: 01509 223 781

For information about the application process, please contact:

Name: Mr Berkeley Young

Email address:

Telephone number: 01509 222 611

How to apply:

All applications should be made online at Under programme name, select ‘Civil and Building Engineering (Built Environment)’.  

Please quote reference number: CBEARCH17/RC

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Midlands of England