PhD Research Position on Adaptive Robotic Demanufacturing

at KU Leuven
Published January 14, 2023
Location Leuven, Belgium
Category Deep Learning  
Job Type Scholarship  


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-RE project that was recently approved in the framework of the EIT Raw Materials. In this project KU Leuven will collaborate with 7 other European partners: ERION, GlobEco, Itelyum Regeneration, OSAI Automation System, Smart Waste Engineering, TREEE and Università degli Studi dell'Aquila.

In this project, KU Leuven will lead the activities on lifecycle impact and lifecycle costing analysis (LCA&LCC) and on computer vision driven robotic demanufacturing. These activities will be carried out within a multidisciplinary and multinational/multicultural team of researchers at KU Leuven, in which competences are already available to perform the LCA&LCC and the deep learning computer vision for component detection and product identification. Therefore, we are looking for a new colleague to complement this team with the objective to investigate the most optimal approaches for continuous feeding and clamping of electronic products or printed wiring boards and for one or multiple robots to dismantle the products with multiple unscrewing tools (or alternative dismantling technologies, such as milling). To increase the system’s robustness, cost-efficiency and flexibility, 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 various challenges, such as decision support to define the optimal depth of disassembly 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 investigate how to define task lists for multiple actors in a demanufacturing line and develop a disassembly sequence planning algorithm to assign these tasks in an optimal manner considering the capabilities and limitations of the different robot (tools) and operator(experiences)
  • You will investigate optimal approaches to integrate a camera system, a product clamping mechanism, multiple robotic unscrewing systems and a manual workstation and how to assign tasks to the different actors for optimal line balancing, as well as the required adaptive communication strategies
  • You will investigate how dismantling tasks and previous dismantling experiences could be saved or included in a digital product passport to support robotic, manual and collaborative demanufacturing.
  • You will support the mechanical and electrical development and programming to update the available lab setup and related software, and later on in the project you will support the integration of the developed software on the system that will be constructed by the company OSAI for pilot testing.
  • You will setup and perform capacity and robustness tests of the automated system for specific use cases, as well as tests to evaluate the human-machine cooperation from these different perspectives.


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


  • You follow-up literature, patents, company releases, conferences, etc., and use the obtained information to determine the state-of-the-art and identify opportunities for novel contributions to the field.
  • You are responsible for developing, implementing, and evaluating robotic demanufacturing systems and different approaches for human-robot collaboration for demanufacturing.
  • You help to define Master thesis topics related to your research and guide Master students with their thesis work.
  • You support in teaching activities for bachelor or master students at the faculty of engineering technology, campus Groep T (max 10% of the working time)
  • You report to your senior colleagues, supervisors, and the different project partners during the bi-annual project meetings organized at the premises of the different project partners
  • You present your research results at international conferences.
  • You hold a Master’s in Engineering for which you obtained a high GPA (in Belgium a cumlaude level is a prerequisite).
  • You have good programming skills and experience with Python programming and experience with implementing computer vision algorithms and/or communication with robots is a plus.
  • You have good mechanical design skills to generate and evaluate different concepts, to produce a detailed design, to follow-up the production, to support the assembly and to evaluate the final system.
  • You like programming, but you also like to bring theory to practice by hands-on experiments.
  • You like to work in a multi-disciplinary team of international researchers and show willingness to learn/explore innovative technologies and techniques.
  • You have a creative mindset, like to take initiative, and are not afraid to address innovative ideas and new opportunities.
  • You have good communication skills (oral and written) in English.
  • We offer a varied and challenging job with an attractive salary package.
  • We offer a research position in a stimulating and multi-disciplinary environment and a solid industrial network.
  • We will support you in publishing in high-ranked international scientific journals.
  • We provide the opportunity to work towards obtaining a PhD degree within an international network.
For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jef Peeters, mail:
You can apply for this job no later than March 31, 2023 via the online application tool
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