ID: 3063

Production of the future can learn from nature

The Bionic Learning Network at the 2015 International Press Conference

The extent to which production can learn in future from the latest projects from the Bionic Learning Network of Festo, and what special characteristics can be derived from nature, were demonstrated on the occasion of the International Press Conference at Festo’s Scharnhausen Technology Plant on 2nd and 3rd December. The questions as to whether ultra-lightweight flight objects can pave the way for new guidance and monitoring systems, and whether the adaptability of the chameleon’s tongue can provide the key to flexible gripping mechanisms, were answered in visionary approaches.

In production, automation technology assumes characteristic tasks such as the gripping, moving and positioning of goods, or the control and regulation of processes. Nature accomplishes all these tasks simply and in an energy-efficient way as a matter of course. What would be more obvious than to take a closer look at these natural phenomena and learn from them? The new projects from the Bionic Learning Network provide visionary approaches to many tasks in the production of the future. The BionicANTs and eMotionButterflies projects illustrate how networked communication between individual systems can merge to constitute an intelligent overall system. And the FlexShapeGripper demonstrates how a flexible and adaptable gripping mechanism from nature has found potential applications.


BionicANTs – highly integrated individual systems to solve a common task

For the BionicANTs, the 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. 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. Dr. Frontzek says: “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.”


eMotionButterflies – ultralight flying objects with collective behaviour

Flying is not only one of mankind’s oldest dreams, but also a recurring theme in the Bionic Learning Network. With the eMotionButterflies, Festo is now combining the ultra-lightweight design of artificial insects with coordinated flight behaviour in a swarm. The eMotionButterflies illustrate complex topics from the future production world such as functional integration, ultra-lightweight design and networked, real time-optimised communication between individual systems. “However, the eMotionButterflies will not fly through the factory of the future; rather, they will suggest new approaches to the functioning of a networked overall system or show us what future industrial logistics applications could look like,” emphasises Dr. Frontzek. A networked guidance and monitoring system autonomously and securely coordinates the individual flight objects in space. The communication and sensor technology used constitutes an indoor GPS system that controls the butterflies’ flight in a swarm with no risk of collision.


FlexShapeGripper – gripping modelled on the chameleon’s tongue

“The special, in fact revolutionary, feature of the FlexShapeGripper is that it can grasp, pick up and place several objects of highly diverse shapes in a single process – without the need for a manual conversion,” says Dr. Frontzek. This gripping mechanism was inspired by the working principle of the chameleon’s tongue. 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 components.

费斯托 (Festo)是一家全球性的独立的家族企业,总部位于德国埃斯林根。自成立以来,Festo在工业自动化技术和技术教育方面制定标准,从而为环境、经济和社会的可持续发展做出贡献。公司为超过35个行业的30万家工厂和过程自动化客户提供气动和电驱动自动化技术解决方案,其中生命科学和实验室自动化业务受到越来越多的关注。Festo产品和服务遍布176个国家。2022年,费斯托在全球61个国家的250多个分支机构拥有约20800名员工,实现销售额38.1亿欧元。每年约7%的销售额用于研发。在这家学习型企业,1.5%的销售额用于基础和进一步培训。Festo 教学培训 (Didactic SE) 是全球领先的技术教育和培训供应商,为全球客户提供工业环境中全面的数字化和常规学习解决方案。

© Festo SE & Co. KG
Highly integrated individual systems for solving a common task: in an abstract manner, this cooperative behaviour provides interesting approaches for the factory of tomorrow.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Coordinated flying thanks to indoor GPS: with the eMotionButterflies, Festo now combines the ultra-lightweight construction of artificial insects with coordinated flying behaviour in a collective.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Soft gripping for various tasks: 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 manual conversion.