Maximum performance with minimum energy consumption: Nature shows the way to energy-efficient movement processes in tomorrow’s production and provides impulses for astounding new practical applications. Festo’s Bionic Learning Network – a cooperation between Festo and renowned universities, institutes and development companies – is an integral part of innovation processes in the learning company. Its projects reflect problem-solving competence, and as entirely new technological approaches they inspire dialogue with our customers regarding what is feasible and desirable for the future. Festo is testing new approaches for the control and regulation of autonomous bionic system.(Pics)
AquaPenguins – technology-bearers as autonomous underwater vehicles
Like its natural archetype, the AquaPenguin from Festo has a hydrodynamic body contour. Its elegant wing propulsion and its head and tail sections, which can be moved in all directions, allow the robotic penguins to manoeuvre in cramped spatial conditions, to turn on the spot when necessary and – unlike their biological counterparts – even to swim backwards.
The bionic Penguins are designed as autonomous underwater vehicles that independently orient themselves and navigate through the water basin. They are supported by a 3D sonar system which, as with dolphins, allows communication with their surroundings and with other robotic penguins – for example to avoid collisions.
With the AirPenguins, the engineers from Festo have created artificial penguins and have taught them “autonomous flight in the sea of air”. For this purpose, control and regulating technology had to be further developed into self-regulating biomechatronic systems, which could also play a future role in adaptive production.
A group of three autonomously flying penguins hovers freely through a defined air space that is monitored by ultrasound transmission stations. The penguins are at liberty to move within this space; a microcontroller gives them free will in order to explore it.
The bionic Fin Ray® structure, derived from the anatomy of a fish’s fin, was extended here for the first time to applications in three-dimensional space. If the 3D Fin Ray® structure of the head and tail sections is transferred to the requirements of automation technology, it can be used for instance in a flexible tripod with a very large scope of operation in comparison with conventional tripods.
The BionicTripod makes use of the bionic Fin Ray® structure, which was transferred to three-dimensional space for the first time in the AirPenguin and AquaPenguin projects for efficient, versatile automation. Three extendible and retractable filigree fibreglass rods reduce the mass to be displaced, while allowing a maximum scope of movement of up to 90 degrees.
The interface between the BionicTripod and the workpiece is effected by an adaptive grasping device, the FinGripper, which holds the workpiece, e.g. a light bulb, just like a hand. Here too, the Fin Ray® effect is utilised; this is derived from the movement of a fish’s tail fin. The FinGripper is so flexible that is can securely grip and deposit even fragile or irregularly shaped objects. Furthermore, it is so versatile that it can operate with a wide range of diverse shapes in direct succession.
InteractiveWall demonstrates a new form of architecture that is dynamic and interactive. It combines the advantages of the bionic Fin Ray® structure with state-of-the-art automation technology from Festo. InteractiveWall can either follow a predetermined sequence of movements or interact with people in front of it. It transforms the behaviour of trade fair visitors into motion, light and music in real time.
Printing in three dimensions? What sounds like a vision of the future has long been industrial reality with rapid prototyping. The previously unattainable dream of being able to “print” one’s own products in the living-room has come much closer to realisation thanks to iFab. Whether it be plastics or chocolate, iFab can process the most diverse of materials.
Molecubes – an attractive programmable robotics system
Molecubes could play a significant role in technical training in the near future. These cubes, fitted with computer chips, can be successively attached to each other. Each Molecube communicates with all the other cubes; the energy supply and transmission of signals from one Molecube to the next are thereby ensured. Young people can use the Molecubes to build and program their own robots.