Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research

Dr Peter Walters

Current Research

Bioinspired Control of Electro-Active Polymers for Next Generation Soft Robotics

Awarding body: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
awarded to:
University of Sheffield, University of Bristol and UWE, Bristol
Project duration: 2012 - 2015

Project details:

Dr Peter Walters is part of the UWE team in this collaborative project to investigate the design and control of new soft-bodied robots. The current generation of robots is typically built of hard, inflexible and insensitive materials, in contrast to animal bodies which use soft and elastic elements with the capacity for sensing and shape change. A revolution is beginning in robotics in which new soft-smart materials more similar to animal tissues are being introduced. One such material is the class of electroactive polymers (EAPs)-flexible plastics that can change shape when an electric current is passed through them and thus can act rather like animal muscles. This research will investigate novel strategies for the biologically inspired design and control of a new generation of soft-bodied robots. The research team believe this work can unlock the potential of such materials leading to machines with the fluidity and grace of movement we associate with animals. This change will have many knock-on effects. Robots with soft body parts and skilled movement will be able to go places that are currently impossible for them. For instance, exploring disaster sites or remote worlds, picking their way through boulders, squeezing though crannies, whilst automatically adapting to wear-and-tear. Robots with softer bodies and flexible limbs will also be safer for humans to interact with, and thus can play a wider role in our homes, schools and hospitals.


This interdisciplinary project is led by Dr John Porrill (University of Sheffield) and involves collaboration between the University of Sheffield, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of West of England. CFPR Research Fellow Dr Peter Walters will contribute to the project expertise in design, 3D printing and fabrication, and smart materials technologies.


Project Team:

University of Sheffield: Dr J Porrill, Prof T Prescott, Prof P Dean, Dr S Anderson.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory: Prof C Melhuish, Prof A G Pipe, Dr J M Rossiter, Dr M J Pearson

UWE CFPR: Dr P Walters

Solid Free-form Fabrication in Fired Ceramic as a Design Aid for Concept Modelling the Ceramic Industry

Awarding body: Arts and Humanities Research Council
awarded to:
Hoskins, Stephen
researcher participants:
Huson, David and Walters, Peter
project partner:
Denby Pottery
image (right):
Prototype design for 3D object, Peter Walters
Project duration: 31/03/2011 - 30/03/2012

Project details:
During the AHRC funded three-year research project ‘The Fabrication of Three Dimensional Art and Craft Artefacts through Virtual Digital Construction and Output’ the investigators Huson and Hoskins developed a patented ceramic material. Whilst there are several research groups working internationally in this field, the CFPR team are currently at the forefront of these developments with a method which uses 3D computer aided design (3D CAD) software to design an object on a computer and print a model directly in a ceramic material to be subsequently fired, glazed and decorated.

The primary aim of new project is to prove the commercial viability of 3D printed ceramic bodies as a design tool for concept modelling of tableware and whiteware for the ceramic industry. A further aim is to investigate ceramic firing supports and their advantages in the production of one-off ceramic design concept models. Using a support, a ceramic 3D printed object can be created and fired without losing its shape in the firing. The ability to print directly in a compatible ceramic material that can be glazed and decorated would be a quantum leap in this process.

Smart materials and novel actuators: Creative applications in art and design

Awarding body: UWE Early Career Researcher Starter Grant
Awarded to: Dr Peter Walters
Research Co-Investigators: Dr Jonathan Rossiter, Senior Lecturer, Department of Engineering Mathematics, University of Bristol, Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, Research Fellow, Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Research Associate: David McGoran
Project duration: 01.02.2010 - 31.10.2010

Project details:
Funded by a UWE Early Career Researcher Starter Grant 2009/10, this research project will investigate the use of “smart” shape-changing materials, together with 3D printing and fabrication technologies, in the creative realization of interactive art and design artifacts. For example, an artwork in a gallery, which changes shape in response to the presence of a gallery visitor, or a product which uses physical movement to communicate information to its owner.

Smart materials exhibit changes in their physical properties, such as size or shape, in response to external stimuli (eg temperature, or electric current). Smart materials to be investigated will include, for example, “shape memory” materials, which can function as actuators i.e. devices that provide movement or changes in shape, for robotics and related applications. Research will also investigate the potential use of a live biological material (microorganisms) within a novel “bio-actuator”.
The enquiry aims to demonstrate that smart materials and novel actuators, which are often developed for “space-age” engineering, robotics, and medical applications, are becoming increasingly available and accessible to practitioners within the creative arts. The investigation will explore the technical capabilities of smart materials and novel actuators, and will demonstrate their potential use within art and design applications through the creative production of a series of exemplar artifacts.

Edible 3D Printing

Funding: UWE early career researcher starter grant 2010/11
Awarded to: Deborah Southerland
Collaborators: Peter Walters and David Huson

Edible 3D Printing is a ‘proof of concept’ research project that will bring the versatility and precision of the digital world into the realm of food and edible products. The project seeks to explore and test the technical capabilities of food-based materials (eg: sugars, starch powders, alcohol and chocolate) within 3D printing and rapid prototyping technologies.

The team are undertaking tests on three main production and manufacture techniques for technical feasibility and creative potential:

1. Direct free form fabrication, using powdered food mixes within the Z-Corp powder binder 3D printer.
2. Using heated syringe extruders and chocolate based products within the ‘Rap Man’ rapid prototyping system.
3. 3D printing of resin and/or plaster master models, from which silicone or vacuum formed plastic moulds will be produced, for casting single or multiple food based forms.

The potential of 3D printing has been under philosophical discussion for some time, but conventional materials are often limited in terms of functional and visual qualities. Food based products could provide an exciting alternative with significant commercial potential in the form of delicious delectable edible objects. It is anticipated that these fabrication processes will allow for the creation of intricate edible forms that would be unachievable through conventional cooking and food preparation techniques.

The Application of Digitally Assisted 3D Construction for the Arts and Crafts

Awarding body: RCUK
Awarded to: Dr Peter Walters
Project duration: 1.2.07-31.1.2012

Project details:
Research Fellowship: The enquiry is broadly aimed at researching the potential for applying digitally assisted 3D design to the production of art and craft related construction, using industrially designed technology such as CNC milling and 3D printing. Specifically the research seeks to contribute to the field a continuum between traditional craft based production and new technology, providing a comprehensive technical and theoretical overview of its integration. Whilst primarily aimed at assisting a broad spectrum of arts and crafts applications, new approaches for industrial production may also emerge during the research which may be developed and exploited in collaboration with industrial partners.
Research questions relevant to the enquiry include:
What are the technical capabilities of new and emerging 3D printing technologies and what creative possibilities do these afford within art, craft and designer-maker practice?

Are 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies closing the gap between physical and virtual modelling within creative practice?
In an era of virtual and rapid prototyping, does craft mastery remain a valid paradigm for creative practice?