PhD Position in Adaptive Robotic Demanufacturing

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Mechanical Engineering

The KU Leuven research group on Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has, in close cooperation with their industrial partners, acquired significant experience in re- and demanufacturing, or in other words the dismantling of products into their components or composing materials for the purpose of reuse, repair, repurposing, remanufacturing and recycling. The KU Leuven has recently established the Re- and Demanufacturing Lab in Heverlee to support these research activities. The ten-headed team working in this lab has in the framework of various national and international projects developed and installed various setups in this lab with state-of-the-art automation, spectroscopic, computer vision and ICT equipment for material characterization, robotic sorting and robotic disassembly or dismantling. The group’s ambition is to further develop its lab and infrastructure, together with the related software and expertise in this field. This to support system integrators and reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling companies in the development of the next generation of processes for sustainable demanufacturing. In addition, it is the objective to support original equipment manufacturers in developing more sustainable (consumer) products in the ongoing transition towards a more circular economy.


The envisaged research will be part of the NEW-REproject that was recently approved in the framework of the EIT Raw Materials. Inthis project KU Leuven will collaborate with 7 other European partners: ERION, GlobEco, Itelyum Regeneration, OSAI Automation System, Smart Waste Engineering, TREEEand Università degli Studi dell'Aquila.

In this project, KU Leuven will lead the activities on lifecycleimpact and lifecycle costing analysis (LCA&LCC) andon computer vision driven robotic demanufacturing. These activities will becarried out within a multidisciplinary and multinational/multicultural team ofresearchers at KU Leuven, in which competences are already available to performthe LCA&LCC and the deep learning computer vision for component detectionand product identification. Therefore, we are looking for a new colleague tocomplement this team with the objective to investigate the most optimalapproaches for continuous feeding and clamping of electronic products orprinted wiring boards and for one or multiple robots to dismantle the products withmultiple unscrewing tools (or alternative dismantling technologies, such asmilling). To increase the system’s robustness, cost-efficiency andflexibility, approaches for human-machine collaboration will be investigated,e.g. for the robotic unscrewing and the manual sorting of (reusable)components. This human-robot collaborations (HRC) encompasses variouschallenges, such as decision support to define the optimal depth ofdisassembly and destination for the disassembled components (reuse v.s.recycling), multi-actor task assignment under uncertainty of the vision system,demanufacturing line/work balancing, adaptive instructions for manual disassembly,e.g. based on which tasks the robot (un-)successfully performed.

Therefore,in the context of the New-RE project:

  • You will investigatehow to define task lists for multiple actorsin a demanufacturing line and develop a disassembly sequence planning algorithm to assign these tasks in an optimal manner considering thecapabilities and limitations of the different robot (tools) and operator(experiences)
  • You will investigate optimal approaches to integrate a camera system, a productclamping mechanism, multiple robotic unscrewing systems and a manual workstation and how to assign tasks to the different actors for optimal linebalancing, as well as the required adaptive communication strategies
  • You will investigate how dismantling tasks and previous dismantlingexperiences could be saved or included in a digital product passport to supportrobotic, manual and collaborative demanufacturing.
  • You will support the mechanical and electrical development andprogramming to update the available lab setup and related software, and later onin the project you will support the integration of the developed software onthe system that will be constructed by the company OSAI for pilot testing.
  • You will setup and perform capacity and robustness tests of theautomated system for specific use cases, as well as tests to evaluate thehuman-machine cooperation from these different perspectives.

You are part of a multi-disciplinary researchgroup, working on the topic of Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) under thesupervision of Prof. Dr. MSc. Ing. Jef Peeters.

  • You follow-up literature,patents, company releases, conferences, etc., and use the obtained informationto determine the state-of-the-art and identify opportunities for novelcontributions to the field.
  • You are responsible for developing, implementing, and evaluating roboticdemanufacturing systems and different approaches for human-robot collaborationfor demanufacturing.
  • You help to define Master thesis topics related to your research and guideMaster students with their thesis work.
  • You support in teaching activities for bachelor or master students atthe faculty of engineering technology, campus Groep T (max 10% of the working time)
  • You report to your senior colleagues, supervisors, and the different projectpartners during the bi-annual project meetings organized at the premises of thedifferent project partners
  • You present your research results at international conferences.


  • You holda Master’s in Engineering for which you obtained a high GPA (in Belgium a cumlaude level is a prerequisite).
  • You havegood programming skills and experience with Python programming and experiencewith implementing computer vision algorithms and/or communication with robotsis a plus.
  • You havegood mechanical design skills to generate and evaluate different concepts, toproduce a detailed design, to follow-up the production, to support the assemblyand to evaluate the final system.
  • You likeprogramming, but you also like to bring theory to practice by hands-onexperiments.
  • You liketo work in a multi-disciplinary team of international researchers and show willingnessto learn/explore innovative technologies and techniques.
  • You havea creative mindset, like to take initiative, and are not afraid to address innovativeideas and new opportunities.
  • You havegood communication skills (oral and written) in English.


  • We offera varied and challenging job with an attractive salary package.
  • We offera research position in a stimulating and multi-disciplinary environment and a solidindustrial network.
  • We willsupport you in publishing in high-ranked international scientific journals.
  • We providethe opportunity to work towards obtaining a PhD degree within an internationalnetwork.


If interested, please submit yourapplication trought the KU Leuven application portal by uploading your CV,letter of motivation, and Bachelor and Master transcripts. For more information,please contact Prof. Dr. Jef Peeters, tel.: +32 16 32 25 69,

Solliciteren voor deze vacature kan tot en met 03/06/2022 via onze
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: June 3, 2022
  • Tags: Ingenieurswetenschappen
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