Research activity

Current research projects – Medical and Biomechanical Engineering

Development of functionally graded bioprinted structures.

bone-tolerance-thresholdThis project, in collaboration with Dr Peter Bush (School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton), Dr Nick Dowell, Professor Mara Cercignani (both from the Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre at the University of Sussex) involves the development of functionally graded bioprinted structures. Using our new state of the art 3D bioprinter, we’re able to produce geometrically complex, functionally graded biocompatible structures for surgical planning and implantation using multiple materials in the same build. These structures are based on scanned structures which have been segmented and converted into printable file formats. The image shown here is the result of a tolerance analysis I did of some replica bone samples were scanned, segmented and 3D printed in plaster. We’re luckily enough to have Ella, our PhD student working on this project since 2015.

Design of variable density structures for 3D printing and additive manufacturing

variable-density-internal-structuresIn collaboration with Dr Karina Rodriguez Echavarria (School of Computing, Engineering and Mathemaics at the University of Brighton), Dr Asla Sa (FGV/EMAp in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil) and Professor Vinícius Mello (Universidade Federal da Bahia in Brazil) this project involves the design of cellular and scaffold structures for use with 3D printing and additive manufacturing machines. Currently there are very few design tools available to develop such structures, and this project involves the development of computer aided design (CAD) tools to allow engineers and designers to design such structures. The image here shows a section view of two internal structures with variable density (produced by Professor Vinícius Mello).


Using 3D printing to make sensors

cell-block-bhavikI am also working with Dr Bhavik Patel and Dr Aidan Fagan-Murphy (School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton) to 3D print biosensors, to allow us to make bespoke sizes and shapes for useful sensors in the lab. The image here shows part of one of the drawings used to specify the cell block used in a variety of biosensors.

Using 3D printing to produce bespoke usable models in anatomy education

vertebra-modelBeing able to produce bespoke anatomical models for various body parts and organs is a great way to support anatomy education. This project with Dr Claire Smith (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) involves the scanning, segmentation, conversation and printing of  bespoke anatomical models to support the educational process. With so many anatomical and biological models now becoming available through initiatives like the NIH 3D print exchange (, it’s really helping everyone to focus on being able to convert scan data into meshable, printable formats for bespoke FEA and 3D printing applications across the board. Shown here is a vertabra, scanned using a high resolution CT scanner and printed in ABS plastic.

Development of 3D printing processes to support orthopaedic surgical planning

thresholded-bonesThis project involves the development of processes to support orthopaedic planning. In collaboration with Dr Peter Bush (School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton), we’re looking at how we can produce useful orthopaedic tools, jigs and prototypes to help surgeons plan, practice and perform surgery as best they can. Shown here is a single bovine foot bone that’s been segmented using various settings to help understand the two the software can be used to differentiate between cartilage and bone. There are subtle, but noticeable differences between the models at the boundaries between the bone and the cartilage.

Current research projects – Ergonomics, human factors and user experience

Biomechanics of using computer mice

flex-ext-jigOne of our PhD students, Bashayer Alhay is currently working on a project to investigate the biomechanics and ergonomics of various computer mouse designs. This project is in collaboration with Dr Lucy Redhead (School of Health Professions at the University of Brighton) and Dr Martin Bailey (School of Sport and Service Management at the University of Brighton). Shown here is one of our rigs being used as a benchmark tool for some electrogoniometer and fastrak measurements (image courtesy of Bashayer Alhay).

Embracing the Gesture-Driven Interface: designing and evaluating air-based Interfaces

Our latest PhD student Tobias has recently joined us from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil. He is investigating the use of gesture-drive interfaces . This project is in collaboration with Dr Lyn Pemberton who is also in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics.

Human factors issues in bicycle design and safety

I’m currently running a small research project with the University of Brighton Cycling Club and the Institute of Ergonomics to investigate the issues surrounding visibility in cycling. We’re also looking at the human factors and ergonomics associated with bicycles and their components, to try to understand the extent to which the bicycle design been optimised for human wellbeing and performance (the aim of human factors/ergonomics), and to look for ways to improve the designs to best meet these requirements. There are many companies who manufacture bicycle components and make impressive claims as to the benefits in terms of comfort and/or performance, but many of these claims are often unsupported with evidence (I should add here that there are also many that are supported by fantastic evidence!). I’m keen to find out more about the research and development that has been done on such products to see if we can help to support these claims publicly, or to investigate the real state of affairs in terms of product benefits and performance.

Current research projects – Sports and other engineering

Parametric modelling of mechanical behaviour of bicycle frames and components

vertical-compliance-bicycleMy current bicycle engineering research project has the aim of understanding and quantifying the influence of key parameters on the structural behaviour of the bicycle. Ultimately, we’re aiming to establish a set of design guidelines that can support engineers and designers in the design process. Starting with the frame itself, we’re looking at geometric parameters (including tube lengths and frame angles, tube butting profiles, tube thicknesses and sectional profiles, and tube curvatures/shapes) and material inputs for standard tube designs in steel, aluminium, titanium (available from Reynolds (UK), Columbus (Italy), Tange (Japan). The image here shows an early FE model using beam elements to simulate the frames vertical compliance with varying geometry. Of course there’s carbon too, but we want to start with the traditional materials (which are simpler to work with!) before we enter the world of composites. I’m also interested in the dynamic behaviour of bicycles, in particular the design and setup of suspension systems for mountain bikes. I’m currently establishing an international collaboration with Dr Jean-Marc Drouet of VélUS (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Université de Sherbrooke in Canada), Joachim Vanwalleghem (Department of materials science and engineering, University of Gent in Belgium) as well as Dr Steve Begg and Dr Dan Coren here at the University of Brighton.

Development of cricket bats with improved dynamic properties

This is definitely a hobby research project, but one close to my heart. The project involves modelling and measuring the dynamic responses of cricket bats with various blade and handle properties. I have a theory that might show a huge difference in dynamic performance – and no, it’s not carbon fibre handles, shorter blades or big heavy blades. I’m hopeful that the results will speak for themselves!

Development of bespoke Design Data Management (DDM) systems

This project came about as a result of my recent KTP project (which was awarded as outstanding by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). In particular, the marvellous work done by Jugal, Erik and team highlighted the need for design teams, suppliers and subcontractors to have carefully considered design data systems to allow for free exchange of design data between them. This project involves the development of bespoke design data management systems for design teams.

Educational research projects

Flip learning in Engineering and Design

3d-visualisation-technical-drawing-blocksIn collaboration with Dr Bhavik Patel (School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton) and Dr Deshinder Singh Gill (also from School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, University of Brighton), this project involves experimenting with using the Flip method for teaching and learning. In particular, we’re looking into how this can be used across various subject areas and teaching modes, from pharmacy to engineering to design. The examples shown here are simple geometric shapes that can be used to support 3D visualisation and technical drawing exercises.

Publications list

  1. Morris, R., Fagan-Murphy, A., MacEachern, S. J., Covill, D., Patel, B.A. 2016. Electrochemical fecal pellet sensor for simultaneous real-time ex vivo detection of colonic serotonin signalling and motility. Scientific Reports 6(23442). doi:10.1038/srep23442.
  2. Mulling T., Covill, D., Pemberton, L. 2016. Translating Graphical User Interfaces: challenges for the design and standardization of mid-air interfaces, International Conference on Live Interfaces (ICLI), Brighton, UK, June 2016.
  3. Hodder E, Covill D, Dowell N, Best M, Cercignani M, Harris L. MRI-informed Biomimetic Design of Artificial Intervertebral Disc Scaffolds using 3D Bioplotting, UK society of Biomaterials conference, July 2016.
  4. Morris, R., Elton, E., Milne, M., Covill D., 2016. Re-examining the Case for Modular Education, Engineering and Product Design Education (EPDE) conference, Aalborg, Denmark, September 2016.
  5. Covill, D., Allard, P., Drouet, J-M., Emerson, N. 2016. An Assessment of Bicycle Frame Behaviour under Various Load Conditions Using Numerical Simulations. Procedia Engineering: 11th conference of the International Sports Engineering Association, ISEA 2016.
  6. Sá A, Moreira Mello V, Rodriguez-Echavarria K, Covill D, 2015, Adaptive voids: Primal and Dual Adaptive Cellular Structures for Additive Manufacturing, The Visual Computer, 31 (6), pp 799-808.
  7. Covill D, Blayden A, Coren D, Begg S. 2015, Parametric finite element analysis of steel bicycle frames: the influence of tube selection on frame stiffness, Procedia Engineering, 2015. Full text available from ScienceDirect at: 
  8. Covill D, Begg S, Elton E, Milne M, Morris R, Katz T, 2014, Parametric Finite Element Analysis of Bicycle Frame Geometries, Procedia Engineering, Volume 72, Pages 441-446, ISSN 1877-7058, Full text available from ScienceDirect at: or
  9. Covill D, Elton E, Milne M, Morris R, Katz T. 2014.Analysis of human factors in the design of bicycle components. In: Contemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors, Edited by Sharples and Shorrock, pp 143-150.
  10. Covill, D, Patel, B, Gill, D. S. 2013, Flipping the classroom to support learning: an overview of flipped classes from science, engineering and product design, School Science Review, September 2013, pp 73-80.
  11. Covill, D, and Elton, E, 2013, Hi tech support for human factors in sports product design, The Ergonomist No 518, August 2013, pp 12-13.
  12. Desai J, Covill D, Dalley E, Jones M, 2013, Preparing for integrating supply chain with design and development operations process in a medium sized heavy machinery Original Equipment Manufacturer, KTP Associates Conference Digest, Brighton, 13th June, 2013, Edited by S. Campbell, pp: 41-49, ISBN: 978-1-905593-90-3.
  13. Sá, Asla M., RODRIGUEZ ECHAVARRIA, KARINA, GRIFFIN, MARTIN, COVILL, DEREK, KAMINSKI, JAIME and ARNOLD, DAVID (2012) Parametric 3D-fitted frames for packaging heritage artefacts In: VAST2012: The 13th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, Brighton, UK, November 19th-21st, 2012.
  14. MILNE, MARK, MORRIS, RICHARD, COVILL, DEREK and KATZ, TIM (2012) Assessing the 3D visualisation skills of engineering students and developing techniques for support In: International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, University College, Antwerp, Belgium 6-7th September, 2012.
  15. MORRIS, RICHARD, COVILL, DEREK, KATZ, TIM and MILNE, MARK (2012) Evaluating learning dynamics within a landscape of student centred learning In: International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Artesis University College, Antwerp, Belgium 6-7th September, 2012.
  16. Covill, D, Guan, Z.W., Bailey, M. and Raval, H. (2011) Development of thermal models of footwear using finite element analysis Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine , 225 (3). pp. 268-281. ISSN 0954-4119
  17. KATZ, TIM, GILL, DESHINDER, MORRIS, RICHARD and COVILL, DEREK (2010) Embedding ethics into the engineering and product design curriculum: A view from the UK In: International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Trondheim, Norway.
  18. KATZ, TIM, MORRIS, RICHARD and COVILL, DEREK (2009) From school to higher education: reviewing the pedagogic transfer in product design Proceedings from the 11th international conference on engineering and product design education, Creating a better world. pp. 151-156.
  19. KATZ, TIM, GILL, DESHINDER and COVILL, DEREK (2009) Using online journals in engineering courses Proceedings from the 11th international conference on engineering and product design education, Creating a better world . pp. 239-244.
  20. Covill, D., Katz, T., Gill, D.S. and Morris, R.D. (2009) Videocasts in engineering and design education Proceedings from the 11th international conference on engineering and product design education, Creating a better world . pp. 140-145.
  21. Covill, D. (2009) The growing use of video in engineering and design education Engineering Designer, 35 (1). pp. 18-20. ISSN 0013-7898
  22. Morris, R, Katz, T and Covill, D (2008) Widening Participation and Admissions to Higher Education In: Society for Research in Higher Education Conference, 9-11 Dec 2008, Liverpool, UK.
  23. Katz, T., Covill, D., Morris, R. and Mortezaei, R. (2008) Assessment issues in a professionally oriented product design course Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, EPDE08, 2, pp. 817-822.
  24. Covill, D., Katz, T. and Morris, R. (2008) Teaching and assessing CAD using online demonstrations Proceedings of EDPE ’08: Learning Technology, 2 . pp. 681-686.
  25. Covill, D, Guan, Z, Bailey, M and Pope, D (2008) Finite element analysis of the heat transfer in footwear In: Estivelet, M. and Brisson, P., eds. The Engineering of Sport. Springer, pp. 247-254. ISBN 978-2287990557
  26. Covill, D., Farr, J., Katz, T. and White, D. (2008) Use of static stiffness behaviour to characterise field hockey sticks In: The Engineering of Sport 7. Springer Paris, pp. 239-246. ISBN 978-2-287-09412-5
  27. Covill, D and Gill, D.S. (2008) Using podcasts and videocasts to complement traditional teaching methods Social purpose and creativity – integrating learning in the real world. Articles from the Learning and Teaching Conference, University of Brighton . pp. 60-66.
  28. Covill, D, Katz, T and Morris, R (2007) A top down approach to teaching engineering mechanics In: International Symposium for Engineering Education, 17-19 Sep 2007, Dublin, Ireland.
  29. Covill, D (2007) Structural behaviour of pipeline upsetter design: a finite element study South East Knowledge Exchange, Brighton, UK.
  30. Covill, D (2006) Embedding sports technology into the University curriculum: a view from the UK In: Australian Institute of Sport – Sports Technology Conference, 31 Aug – 1 Sep 2006, Canberra, Australia.
  31. Covill, D, Guan, Z, Bailey, M and Raval, H (2006) Finite element analysis of the heat and mass transfer in footwear In: Young Biomedical Engineers Research Conference, Prague, Czech Republic.
  32. Raval, H, Guan, Z, Bailey, M and Covill, D (2006) Simplified 3-D FE model of thermal conditions inside a shoe Advanced Computational Methods in Heat Transfer IX. Proceedings from the Heat Transfer Conference, Wessex Institute of Technology.
  33. Covill, D., Guan, Z., Bailey, M. and Pope, D. (2003) Effects of environmental conditions on in-shoe temperature Proceedings from the ISB Footwear Symposium, Queenstown, New Zealand.
  34. Covill, D (2002) Using engineering to give comfortable footwear In: SET for Brittain, 9 Dec 2002, House of Commons, Parliament House, London.
  35. Covill, D., Guan, Z., Bailey, M. and Pope, D.J. (2002) Effects of shoe fit on in-shoe climate Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 588-594. ISBN 0632064811
  36. Covill, D, Guan, Z, Pope, D.J. and Bailey, M (2002) The effect of shoe fit on subjective responses, temperature and humidity levels Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on The Engineering of Sport: The Engineering of Sport, 4. Blackwell Science, pp. 588-594.

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