3D printing or additive manufacturing produces near net shape parts with complex geometries, which would not be achievable by subtractive manufacturing, through adding materials layer by layer. A large freedom of design, mass customization, waste minimization, as well as fast prototyping are the main benefits of the technology. However, different materials related challenges limit the widespread adoption of 3D printing in industry. One main challenge is related to the limited variety of materials applicable for 3D printing, with polymers still representing the largest share. Furthermore, materials research is needed to enhance and control the quality of the 3D printed parts. 

The PhD is a collaboration between the Coatings and Surface Technologies (CAST) research group of the unit Sustainable Materials Management at VITO and the Materials Engineering Department at KU Leuven. The researcher will be mainly active in the Coatings and Surface Technologies (CAST) research group of the unit Sustainable Materials Management ( at VITO in Mol (

The daily supervision of the PhD will be done by VITO Mentor dr. ir. Marleen Rombouts,, (phone +32(0)14 335745). The University promotor will be Prof. dr. ir. Jozef (Jef) Vleugels,, (+32 (0)16 321244) from the Department of Materials Engineering of KU Leuven (

The candidate will obtain a Ph.D. in Engineering: Materials Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering ( of the Arenberg Doctoral School ( of KU Leuven (

The aim of this PhD is to address the abovementioned challenges by developing feedstock materials and complete processing routes for dense metal and ceramic 3D printing by micro-extrusion. This will require a good understanding of the relationship between printing material formulation (powder, binder, solvent, additives), printing and post-processing conditions, microstructure and materials performance. The PhD will focus on the processing of dense technical ceramics (e.g. silicon carbide) and advanced metal alloys (e.g. Cu alloys) that could be applied in the chemical industry, machinery, electronics and transport sector. 

The candidate will have to pass the selection campaign of the VITO, by an oral defence of the research programme. 
The full procedure is explained at:

Deadline for application: 11/01/2021
First step: selection based on application file: 1/02/2021
Second step: The doctoral candidate must compile an application file in consultation with the VITO and KU Leuven promoters. The file must consist of a doctoral plan, a management summary and an administrative section, according to the VITO guidelines. Deadline: 22/02/2021
Defense of the research topic: Doctoral candidates with an approved application file will face a jury, which will be appointed by VITO, and subjected to a verbal examination about their general scientific knowledge, their doctoral programme and their work plan.
Notification final result: The award will take place based on the application file, the jury report and possible additional guidelines established by the Board of Directors at VITO.
Anticipated starting date of the PhD research: 1/04/2021 (earliest)


Master in Science or Engineering, with a strong background in (inorganic) chemistry or materials engineering.  Knowledge on powder metallurgy and materials characterization are an advantage.

  • Ph.D. fellowship for the duration of a maximum of 4 years.
  • VITO concludes a financing agreement with KU Leuven, with VITO undertaking to provide an annual allowance matching the net remuneration of an assistant, plus management costs. KU Leuven will pay the selected PhD student a PhD grant matching the before mentioned net amount.