Engineering Fellowships for Growth - Morphogenesis Manufacturing: Smart Materials With Programmed Transformations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Aerospace Engineering


The future of manufacturing depends on a number of technological breakthroughs in robotics, sensors and high-performance computing, to name a few. However, nothing will have a greater impact on how things are made, and their subsequent capability, than the constituent materials from which they are constructed. This Fellowship will advance the underpinning engineering science, and demonstrate the potential of 'bottom-up' additive manufacturing to produce advanced metamaterials (materials not found in nature or engineering). To achieve this outcome, active advanced multifunctional materials, exhibiting programmed intelligence in complex 3D architectures, will be developed through creative manufacture. These new modes of assembly, i.e. manufacturing as a 'growth process', will rely on smarter materials, not machines of increasing complexity.

Planned Impact

Potential for economic impact and benefit to UK: The principal economic impact of this Fellowship will be delivered through the development of new metamaterials specifically for additive manufacturing, whether low cost desktop machines or dedicated full-scale production facilities. The AM process, along with the understanding behind new material combinations, offers considerable design freedom to all academic researchers and industrialists to reduce the lead times through rapid design to production, whilst incorporating unique and high-value-added features and performance. Impact will be at the heart of this Fellowship, with key industrial partners involved at every stage.

Societal Impact: The societal impact of this Fellowship could potentially be ground breaking. In 10 years' time, Additive Manufacturing concepts will drive creativity and individuality with consumers manufacturing a wide range of new products at home using advanced additive manufacturing processes and made from multifunctional materials. Desk-top ALM machines (typically, £1000-£2000, with standard polymer, e.g. RepRapPro (, Makerbot Industries ( or 'UP! Personal Portable 3D Printer' ( are widely found in Schools, Colleges and Universities worldwide as teaching aids and their potential as research tools is immense. Adding the potential of 'smart materials' to 'creative manufacturing' will offer engineering students of the future the unique opportunity to see, understand and exploit metamaterials at an early stage in their education. This Fellowship and the research outputs could have the same influential impact on the way people live their lives as smart phones and tablets have had in the past 5 years.

Training for the UK Knowledge Economy: A key output of this programme will be trained people, both the three directly-funded PDRAs and the associated two PhD students (funded directly by the University of Bristol). Due to the interdisciplinary and collaborative character of the research, all team members will be exposed to new techniques and organisations and enhance their understanding of complementary fields. Such qualified people specialising in manufacturing, experimental and mathematical modelling skills will be in high demand. Such expertise underpins the value-added manufacturing and knowledge economy that directly benefits the UK. The Fellowship will provide the PDRAs and PI with the opportunity to build a diverse network of academic and industrial linkages, and the ideal environment within which to develop their vision within industry or academia in the future.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/M002489/1 31/05/2014 31/01/2016 £870,839
EP/M002489/2 Transfer EP/M002489/1 01/02/2016 30/05/2018 £628,702
EP/M002489/3 Transfer EP/M002489/2 31/05/2018 29/06/2019 £235,415
Description The research is developing active materials which can be 3D printed to create products which evolve positively (morph or remodel) over time in response to an external influence. The latter could be temperature, moisture or chemical stimulus.
Exploitation Route The development of a new breed of active materials for 3D printing, which are bio-compatible, will permit the development of 4D materials for the human body, i.e. implants which remodel to the body's needs and architecture.
The development of new 3D printing algorithms can be used by the community for active or non-active materials to generate products with more complexity than currently possible with traditional techniques.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Creative Economy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The Fellowship findings have lead to my involvement in the British Standards Institute (BSI) national panel (since October 2021) to create a new test standard to fully capitalise on the growth of 4D printing, accurate representation and communication of 4D printed parts. To date, there are no means of reliably communicating the performance of 4D printed parts, and so this national panel will create a preliminary work item proposal and high-level draft to address this topic. Subsequently, this draft will be offered up to ISO. The ISO-level committees will include: ISO/TC 261 (Additive Manufacturing), ISO/TC 145 (Graphical Symbols), ISO/IEC JTC 1/WG 12 (3D Printing and Scanning), and ISO/TC 10 (Technical Product Documentation).
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Other
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services