Chameleon’s tongue for industrial automation wins design prizes
Grasping workpieces like a chameleon’s tongue – that’s the functional principle of Festo’s adaptive shape gripper DHEF. The gripper can thus pick, gather and place objects of many different shapes without any need for manual changeovers. This is why it won renowned distinctions in 2020 including the iF Design Award and the Red Dot Design Award.
The iF Design Award is one of the world’s most important design prizes. It honours design achievements in all disciplines: product, packaging, communication and service design, architecture and interior design, as well as professional concepts. Red Dot is synonymous with being amongst the best in design and business. As an international design competition, the Red Dot Design Award is intended for all who want to distinguish their business activities by means of design.
The following functional principle convinced the jurors of the two coveted design awards: The silicone cap of the adaptive shape gripper DHEF can fold itself over and grip objects of virtually any shape. This creates a firm, form-fitting hold. The elastic silicone enables the gripper to precisely adapt to a wide range of geometries. When combined with a pneumatic drive, the adaptive shape gripper requires little energy for a secure grip.
Formless, round, sensitive
Unlike the mechanical grippers currently available on the market that can only grip specific components, the adaptive shape gripper is extremely flexible. It can even manage components with freely formed shapes and round geometries. The absence of sharp edges makes it ideal for gripping sensitive objects such as air nozzles or trim strips. In principle, the gripper can pick up several parts in one movement, for example nuts from a bowl.
This means that the bionic gripper can be used to handle small parts in classic machine building, in the electronic or automotive industry, in supply units for packaging installations, for human-robot interaction during assembly tasks or for prosthetic extensions in medical technology.
Practical product characteristics
The gripper has an elastic silicone membrane that is flexible and pliable; once it is supplied with compressed air and the standardised robot interface with integrated air connections has been added, it is ready to be used as a practical automation component. The standard sensor slot for position sensing as well as the bayonet lock for easy replacement of the cap are additional useful features.
Nature as a model
The unique combination of force and form fitting of the chameleon's tongue can be observed when it is on the hunt for insects. Once the chameleon has its prey in its sights, its tongue shoots out like a rubber band. Just before the tip of the tongue reaches the insect, it retracts in the middle whilst the edges continue to move forwards. This allows the tongue to adapt to the shape and size of the prey and firmly enclose it. The prey sticks to the tongue and is pulled in as though caught on a fishing line. The Festo Bionic Learning Network with researchers from the University of Oslo used these observations when developing a prototype with the name "FlexShapeGripper".
Festo is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. Festo has set standards in industrial automation technology and technical education ever since its establishment, thereby making a contribution to sustainable development of the environment, the economy and society. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 35 industries. Digitalization, AI and the LifeTech sector with medical technology and laboratory automation are becoming increasingly important. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 20,800 employees in over 250 branch offices in around 60 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.81 billion in 2022. Each year around 7% of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Festo Didactic SE is a leading provider of technical education and training and offers its customers worldwide comprehensive digital and physical learning solutions in the industrial environment.