Festo's Bionic Learning Network Presents New Automation Technology at SPS IPC Drives 2015

At SPS IPC Drives 2015, the international exhibition for electric automation, systems and components from 24th to 26th November in Nuremberg, Festo presents current research projects from the Bionic Learning Network. The FlexShapeGripper and the eMotionButterflies are inspired by natural principles and demonstrate ways to transfer those to automation.

Soft gripping for a variety of tasks: The FlexShapeGripper can grasp, pick up and put down several very differently shaped objects in the one process - without the need for a manual conversion. (Photo: Festo AG & Co. KG)

Nature offers a variety of intelligent solutions to technical problems that have been optimized through continuous improvement. Those principles inspire the engineers of the Bionic Learning Network to transfer them to questions of automation technology.

FlexShapeGripper - gripping modelled on the chameleons tongue
Gripping applications have always played a key role in production. Festo already developed various grippers - like the MultiChoiceGripper from 2014, whose adaptive fingers flexibly and smoothly adapt to different forms. The adaptation to various objects is continued with the FlexShapeGripper, whose working principle is derived from the tongue of a chameleon. Chameleons use their tongues to catch insects. Once the chameleon has sighted its prey, it rapidly shoots out its tongue like an elastic band. The captive insect then adheres to it and is drawn in as on a fishing line. 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. 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. The unique inherent ability to adapt to different shapes gives the FlexShapeGripper its name. Both the holding and the release mechanism are triggered pneumatically. No additional energy is necessary for the holding process. 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 bionic model demonstrates solutions for new gripper technologies using pick and place operations as well as the flexibility and adaptability of production. Currently Festo is in dialogue with interested customers to test the market relevance of this prototype.

eMotionButterflies: ultralight flying objects with collective behaviour
The bionic butterflies with an aesthetic appeal illustrate complex topics from the future world of production, such as functional integration, ultra-lightweight design, and above all networked communication between individual systems that is optimised on a real-time basis. The coordination between the individual flight objects is autonomously and reliably enabled by a well-networked external guidance and monitoring system. The communication and sensor technology used, which constitutes an indoor GPS system, ensures collision-free collective behaviour of the butterflies. The combination of integrated electronics and external camera technology with a host computer makes for process stability thanks to an intelligent guidance and monitoring system. The onboard electronics system allows the individual wing pairs to be precisely addressed; it includes its own inertia sensors for the purpose of regulation. No human pilot is therefore required to control the eMotionButterflies. Preprogrammed routes, which specify the flight paths for the butterflies during their manoeuvres, are stored on the central computer. With the aid of additionally stored behaviour patterns, however, they can also move autonomously through the space. With the eMotionButterflies and the indoor GPS derived from it, Festo addresses aspects of the automation of the future, such as the safe and intuitive interaction between man and machine or the autonomous and adaptable behaviour of technical systems, which permit controlled interventions by people at any time and hence create new prospects for the workspace of the future.

You will find the Bionics exhibits from Festo at stand 361in hall 9. Flight demonstrations with the eMotionButterflies take place every hour.

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