Design Engineering

Festo announces bionic ants, butterflies and chameleon grippers


General DPN

Festo will be demonstrating a variety of leading edge technologies from its Bionic Learning Network at Hannover Messe 2015 next month. It previewed these technologies during a web press conference today.

In the Bionic Learning Network, an association of Festo with universities, institutes and development companies, engineers investigate and further develop technical concepts and industrial applications based on models from nature.

For its BionicANTs, Festo engineers have not only taken the delicate anatomy of the natural ant as a role model.

For the first time, the cooperative behaviour of the creatures has also been transferred to the world of technology using complex control algorithms.

“Like their natural role models, the BionicANTs work together under clear rules,” explains Dr. Heinrich Frontzek, Head of Corporate Communication and Future Concepts at Festo.


“They communicate with each other and coordinate both their actions and movements. Each ant makes its decisions autonomously, but in doing so is always subordinate to the common objective and thereby plays its part towards solving the task at hand.”
{gallery}6680{/gallery}In an abstract manner, this cooperative behaviour provides interesting approaches for the factory of tomorrow. Future production systems will be founded on intelligent components, which adapt flexibly to different production scenarios and thus take on tasks from a higher control level.

Gripping applications have always played a key role in production. In cooperation with the University of Oslo, Festo is now presenting a gripper whose working principle is derived from the tongue of a chameleon.

“The FlexShapeGripper can pick up, gather and set back down several objects with the widest range of shapes in one procedure – without the need for a manual conversion,” says Dr. Frontzek. The unique inherent ability to adapt to different shapes gives the FlexShapeGripper its name.

This is made possible by its water-filled silicone cap, which wraps itself around the items being gripped in a flexible and form-fitting manner.

In future, the FlexShapeGripper could be used in any facility where multiple objects with a range of different shapes are handled at the same time – for example in the service robotics sector, for assembly tasks or when handling small parts.

The eMotionButterflies developed by Festo demonstrate complex issues from the world of future production such as functional integration, ultra-lightweight construction and communication between individual systems that is networked and optimized on a real-time basis.

The aesthetically appealing bionic butterflies show the extent to which the virtual and real worlds can grow together. The coordination between the individual flying objects is effected autonomously and safely by means of a well-networked external guidance and monitoring system.

The communication and sensor technology used, which constitutes an indoor GPS system, enables the butterflies to exhibit collective behaviour without danger of collision.

The combination of integrated electronics and external camera technology with a host computer ensures process stability by means of an intelligent guidance and monitoring system.

In addition, Festo has already been investigating superconductor technology and its industrial application for several years. At the Hannover Messe 2015 trade fair, the company will once again be showcasing three new, innovative application concepts under the banner, SupraMotion 3.0.

“We are now not merely showing impressive levitation effects and the opportunities offered by superconductor technology, but are actively discussing their potential together with the automation industry. We are currently working towards initiating our first pilot projects,” said Georg Berner, Head of Strategic Corporate Development, Group Holding Festo.

Visit Hall 15, Stand D07 at Hannover Messe to view these Festo technologies and more.


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