THREAD – PhD Program of the European Union

Numerical modelling of highly flexible structures for industrial applications

Within the framework of the EU-funded doctoral student network «THREAD – Joint Training on Numerical Modelling of Highly Flexible Structures for Industrial Applications», a total of 14 young researchers are working at twelve universities and research institutions from eight European countries. Over the next four years, the EU will provide €3.6 million in funding for 14 doctoral positions and a very special training environment.

The Institute of Mathematics at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) coordinates the THREAD PhD network. Our institute is a central part of this network. Dr.-Ing. Joachim Linn from our division »Mathematics for Vehicle Engineering« played a decisive role in the conception of THREAD and the composition of the consortium.

The research projects focus on the question of how thin, flexible structures such as ropes, cable bundles or hoses can be better modelled and simulated on the computer in the future. The application spectrum of the simulation models developed ranges from cable cars for ski lifts and cable harnesses in automotive engineering to medical endoscopes or hoses for maritime applications, for example on drilling platforms.

Improve System Simulation

Corresponding simulation models and software are currently only available for structures with simple elastic behaviour. Common to the above mentioned examples is their composition of a multitude of subcomponents, which interact in a complex way. Examples are fibers in textile yarn, wires in steel cables, the strands in composite cables or cable bundles, or the text reinforcements and wire reinforcements in hydraulic hoses. Here, the complex interaction of the parts essentially determines the behavior of the whole. With the results obtained in THREAD, it should be possible to better understand the complex interaction effects and make them usable for industrial practice with valid simulation models.

© Fraunhofer ITWM/fleXstructures
In automotive industry, reliable simulation models, including effective material properties, are needed to predict the behaviour of cables and wiring harnesses in (dis)assembly and system operation.

Experience Application-Relevant Doctoral Topics and Industrial Practice

The dissertation topics worked on in THREAD are application-oriented, and the doctoral students (»early stage researchers«) are also allowed to complete a three-month internship at one of the industrial companies. The twelve partners from industry also include fleXstructures GmbH, a spin-off of our institute, and IPS AB, a spin-off of the Fraunhofer-Chalmers Centre FCC in Gothenburg, which develops the software IPS Cable Simulation together with Fraunhofer ITWM.

Spinning of textile yarns
© Centexbel
One challenge deals with the manufacturing of technical textiles for medical applications or composite preforms using the 3D braiding process , where the mechanical interactions between hundreds of yarns should be adequately controlled to generate the desired final layout.
Gastroscope with two working / suction channels
© Karl Storz
Gastroscope with two working/ suction channels: The characterisation of the multilayered structure of medical endoscopes is of utmost importance to model their deformation behaviour and to simulate the navigation within narrow curved tubes within the human body.
Tree-cable system (3S) ropeway with one hauling and two support cables
© Leitner AG
Three-cable system (3S) ropeway with one hauling and two support cables. Accurate structural models of wire ropes are essential to study the behaviour of ropeways on the system level.

Continuing Education During the Doctorate

THREAD also offers special workshops for further education for young scientists. Our institute focuses its courses on the measurement of cable properties and on virtual product development with our developed software tools for assembly planning and interactive simulation of flexible structures. At fleXstructures young researchers learn details about the different modules of the simulation software IPS and test themselves on current application examples from industry.

In July 2020, the training programme will start with a summer school on »Fundamentals of beam theory and flexible multibody dynamics« and »Parametrisation of rotations« at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

A special boundary condition for applicants to THREAD's doctoral positions is that they must not have lived or worked for more than 12 months within the three years immediately preceding their employment in the respective country. In this way, THREAD wants to promote international exchange and mobility of young scientists.

Cosserat Curve
Geometry of a Cosserat Rod: The theoretical background of 1D models of slender structures finds its roots within the so-called rod theories, which have become a classical topic in mechanical engineering and numerical simulation since the seminal work by the Cosserat brothers (1909).

Promoting a Strong Network and Young Talent

A clear advantage is also the strengthening of the existing network. Together, the twelve scientific partners are European leaders in the modeling and simulation of flexible multi-body systems. However, the promotion of young scientists is also very important: »Everyone is interested in well-trained young scientists; this applies to the industrial partners who support the project as well as to the scientific project partners«, says Dr.-Ing. Joachim Linn. 


THREAD PhD Student Davide Manfredo

Since April 1, 2020 Davide Manfredo is our new doctoral student within the program. He has completed his Master’s degree in Mathematics for Life Sciences at Università di Trento, in Italy. After finishing his Bachelor’s degree in pure Mathematics at Università di Torino, he decided to go into applied mathematics. During his academic path, he also had the chance to study in France and Thailand, and to do an internship in Spain where he already gained a lot of international experience.

Thanks to his Bachelor’s degree he has a solid base in pure mathematics and during his Master’s degree, he specialized in numerical analysis, simulations, and coding. During his Master's degree he focused more on biomedical applications. As a PhD student at the Fraunhofer ITWM, he then dealt with cables and tubes, among other things. THREAD's research projects focus on the question of how thin flexible structures such as ropes, cable bundles, tubes or medical devices such as endoscopes can be better modelled and simulated on the computer in the future.

»I am confident that working in the THREAD project will undoubtedly not only improve my scientific expertise but will also allow me to meet inspiring people and make me discover new aspects of the world around me,« says Manfredo.

Focal Points and Supporting Colleagues

Among these new people (besides Joachim Linn) is also Vanessa Dörlich. She is active in the supervision of doctoral students at the ITWM too. Our focus in THREAD is »Investigation and modelling of the effective structural-mechanical properties of composite cables and cable bundles«. This is Vanessa Dörlich's area of expertise and also the topic of her dissertation.

Armin Bosten is also part of the team. He is a PhD student, although not in the THREAD program, and is supervised together with Prof. Olivier Brüls (University of Liège (ULg) (French: Université de Liège)). He is doing his doctorate with a doctoral scholarship of the ITWM. However, his PhD topic is the detailed modelling of cable bundles and thus complements other PhD theses in THREAD and UrWerk.

Video: Interviews with Project THREAD

In the video we interview participants from the THREAD project and they talk about their experiences in the PhD program so far.

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