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Collaborative robotics in production of the future

Innovative projects from the Bionic Learning Network at the Hannover Messe trade fair

At the Hannover Messe trade fair in 2017, Festo demonstrated with the BionicCobot how humans can cooperate with lightweight pneumatic robots. This year, along with further Future Concepts, the engineers from the Bionic Learning Network are presenting a ground-breaking working environment for human-machine collaboration. They have extended the capabilities of the BionicCobot: thanks to simple operability, position monitoring and speech control in combination with machine learning and artificial intelligence, humans and robots can cooperate intuitively and efficiently.


Robots could be used as assistance systems for relieving the human operator above all in monotonous or dangerous work processes. The strict separation between the tasks of humans and those of robots is now increasingly making way for a collaborative working space. The bionic lightweight robots are ideally suited for safe human-robot collaboration by reason of their natural movement patterns and their inherently flexible pneumatics. They can be a cost-efficient alternative to classic robot concepts in future.

Artificial intelligence for efficient cooperation

The BionicCobot is therefore an important component of the future-oriented working environment that Festo is presenting at the Hannover Messe. The robot is connected to IT systems from the field of artificial intelligence; these are able to understand and interpret questions spoken by humans. The operator can thus cooperate intuitively with the robot. The learning system can also process and interlink images from the connected camera systems, along with positional data and further information provided by other devices in the working environment. A so-called semantic map is thereby generated, which constantly grows with machine learning. The system then appropriately distributes the tasks to the robot and the other tools in order to provide ideal support for the human in his or her work.

BionicCobot – a pneumatic lightweight robot with human movement dynamics

The movement patterns of the BionicCobot are modelled on those of the human arm, from the shoulder via the upper arm, elbow, radius and ulna down to its gripping hand. Each of its seven joints makes use of the natural operating mechanism of the biceps and triceps – the efficient interplay of flexor and extensor muscles. It can thus execute very delicate movements, just like its biological model.

The movements of the BionicCobot can be finely regulated so as to be either powerful and dynamic, or sensitive and readily yielding; the system therefore cannot endanger humans even in the case of a collision. This is made possible by the “Festo Motion Terminal”, a pneumatic automation platform that unites high-precision mechanics, sensors and complex control and measuring technology within a very small space.

Depending on the task to be carried out, the BionicCobot can be fitted with different gripping systems. It is intuitively operated by means of a specially developed graphic user interface: the user can teach the BionicCobot the actions to be performed and parametrise them. The defined work steps can then be transferred by drag-and-drop to a sequencer track for implementation in any desired order. The entire movement sequence is virtually depicted and simultaneously simulated. The interface between the tablet and the Festo Motion Terminal is the ROS (robot operating system) platform, on which the kinematic path planning is calculated.          

The Bionic Learning Network
Over ten years ago Festo initiated the Bionic Learning Network, which is closely linked with the processes of innovation within the company. In cooperation with students, renowned universities, institutes and development companies, Festo sponsors projects, testbeds and technology platforms. The objective is to benefit from bionics as a source of inspiration for new technologies and to realise these in industrial automation.


For further information: www.festo.com/bionics