PhD Position in 3D Multimaterial Printing of Electrical Machines

Catholic University of Leuven


This opening refers to a PhD project. The PhD will be performed in the framework of the FWO-SBO Additive Manufacturing for Electrical Machines (AM4EM) project. The consortium involves all key research groups in Flanders active in the field, i.e., the Ghent University (UGent), KU Leuven (KUL) and Vito, with long tradition and complementary expertise along the entire process chain, from material science and processing, shaping and post processing, electrical machine design and evaluation. Description of the organizational unit. Due to the nature of the research, the researcher will be active at KU Leuven on 3 different campuses (Heverlee, De Nayer and Bruges) and in 2 different departments (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Engineering). The PhD promotors will be Prof. PhD. Ing. Eleonora Ferraris (, +3215316944), Prof. PhD. In.g Jozef Vleugels, (, and Prof. PhD. Ing. Frederik Desplentere ( The candidate will obtain a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering Technology ( of KU Leuven (


Outline: The current performance of electrical machines, i.e. machines that create motion out of electricity as well as machines that convert motion into electrical energy, is constrained by construction and design rules due to the adoption of traditional production methods. These generally involve the stacking of laminated and insulated ferromagnetic steel sheets to form the magnetically conductive stator and rotor core and employ electrically conductive windings, made of insulated copper, in the slots. In this context, additive manufacturing (AM) can open up new horizons in the design of electrical machines, given its high flexibility in geometrical product design, material selection and material combination. Since the real addedvalue for the parts can only be realized when multiple materials can be combined, multi-material AM techniques will be adopted to combine materials with different properties (conductive vs. insulating). In this regard, the use of selected materials (such as FeSi, FeCo,Cu, and glass-ceramic) will be put forward to pursue the desired electrical, magnetic, thermal and mechanical properties. An extrusion-based indirect AM processes, like fused filament fabrication (FFF) and robocasting will be explored for the shaping of multi-material components, combined with high temperature sintering to ensure high density, homogeneity, and optimal performance.

Content: This PhD will focus on the complete additive process, going from filament fabrication to FFF printing of the green parts.  The PhD student will also partially be involved in the post-processing of the printed parts. Filaments will indeed consist of a combination of the desired structural material (metal or ceramic powders) combined with an organic binder, which will be removed during the ‘debinding’ or ‘firing’ phase. This phase is then followed up by component densification (‘sintering’), which takes place at very high temperature. A major challenge in printing multi-material Fe-Si/ceramic/Cu combinations is their relatively large difference in sintering temperature to reach full density and a functional microstructure (key to reach good electrical, magnetic or thermal conductivity) as well as their difference in coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) which can result in thermal stresses and geometrical inaccuracy after cooling. Besides the challenges of the post-process step (which will be tackled by and in collaboration with another PhD student), also the filament production and the printing itself will be challenging  as it is needed to ensure continuous filaments with substantial loading and at the same time a good viscosity for extrusion.  Filament production will include research activities going from compound selection, feedstock preparation, filament extrusion and characterization. Filament production will mostly take part at the Materials Engineering Department of the KU Leuven, campus Bruges, and locally supported by technical and post-doc expertise for test execution and extruder adaptation.  FFF printing will take place mostly at the department of Mechanical Engineering, Campus De Nayer, KU Leuven. And it will include process parameter investigation, sample and part production as well as characterization of the printed components. The additive process, where the filament layer is extruded in a layer-by-layer manner, also needs to be optimized in terms of form stability, printing speed, density and adhesion. Adhesion needs to be optimized not only for identical layers, but also for multi-material stacks.  Debinding and sintering require a judicious fine tuning of the thermal cycle to realize a high enough density of the constituent parts, while establishing minimal residual thermal stresses, as well as a careful selection of the sintering atmosphere and ceramic insulator composition. The AM parts will be microstructurally analyzed, and measured regarding the tensile bond strength and shear adhesion strength in cooperation with the department of Materials Engineering, KU Leuven, Heverlee Campus.


  • Master of Sciences in Engineering, Master in Mechanical or Materials Engineering, or an equivalent master degree. The candidate preferably has a background in Manufacturing and Production systems or Materials Science
  • Graduation with distinction degree is a requirement to start the PhD
  • Expertise in additive manufacturing with focus on fused filament fabrication (FFF) is a plus
  • Expertise in polymer processing is also an added value
  • Being fluent in English is a must
  • You are creative and a team worker
  • You are curious, and application driven with interest in science


  • Ph.D. fellowship for the duration of a maximum of 4 years at competitive salary 
  • Anticipated starting date of the PhD research: October 1, 2020
  • A challenging project with industrial valorization potential
  • A highly valued academic environment and multi-cultural working group


For more information please contact Prof. Eleonora Ferraris (, +3215316944), Prof. dr. ir. Frederik Desplentere, tel.: +32 50 66 48 56, mail: or Prof. dr. ir. Jef Vleugels, tel.: +32 16 32 12 44, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than September 15, 2020 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Sint-Katelijne-Waver
  • Apply before: September 15, 2020
  • Tags: Industriële Ingenieurswetenschappen

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