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Bionic creatures demonstrate new approaches to tomorrow’s factory

17th April 2015


The BionicAnts demonstrate how self-organising individual components can communicate with each other and solve complex tasks as a networked overall system
The FlexShapeGripper can grasp, pick up and put down several differently shaped objects in the one process
To prevent the ultra-lightweight eMotionButterflies from colliding, they are co-ordinated by an indoor GPS

Festo, the supplier of automation technology, has announced three new additions to its inspired by nature range; BionicANTS, eMotionButterflies and the FlexShapeGripper.

The latest creations from Festo’s Bionic Learning Network play towards the philosophy of Industry 4.0.

The BionicANTs and eMotionButterflies illustrate how through combining individual systems, a single system of networked communications can be created. In addition, the FlexShapeGripper demonstrates how a flexible and adaptable gripping mechanism, which is based on a reptile’s natural feeding habit, can be used across a wide range of applications.

The BionicANTs project focuses on cooperation and looks at how ants autonomously work together for one common solution. For the BionicANTs, Festo’s 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-Ing Heinrich Frontzek, Head of Corporate Communication and Future Concepts at Festo. "They communicate with each other and co-ordinate both their actions and movements. Each ant makes its decisions autonomously, but in doing so is always secondary to the common objective and thereby plays its part towards solving the complex task at hand."

The co-operative behaviour of ants 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 co-operation with 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 put down several objects with the widest range of shapes in one procedure, without the need for manual conversion. The ability to adapt to many different shapes is made possible by its water-filled silicone cap, which wraps itself around any item being picked up in a flexible and form-fitting manner.

“We see the FlexShapeGripper being used in any facility where multiple objects with a range of different shapes are handled at the same time. For example within the robotics sector, for assembly tasks or when handling small parts,” commented Frontzek.

Festo’s eMotionButterflies have been developed to solve complex issues such as functional integration, ultra-lightweight construction and communication between individual systems that are networked and optimised on a real-time basis. The bionic butterflies show the extent to which the virtual and real world can work together.

Co-ordination between the individual flying objects is possible due to a well-networked external guidance and monitoring system. The communication and sensor technology used, which creates an indoor GPS system, enables the butterflies to display collective behaviour without any danger of collision.

The combination of integrated electronics and external camera technology, used with a host computer, ensures process stability through an intelligent guidance and monitoring system. This technology opens up possibilities for enhanced safety of applications in an industrial environment.









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