Every year, engineers from Festo's Bionic Learning Network take a new batch of bio-inspired robots to the Hannover Messe trade fair. Previous highlights have included robotic ants capable of working together, a monster dragonfly that can move in all directions and helium-filled flying penguins. This year, the German automation company is showcasing a tentacle-packing pick and pack gripper and two lightweight robots designed for fluid movement.
All three of Festo's trade fair concepts have been designed to demonstrate what a safe human/robot collaboration in the workplace could look like in the future. The star of the trio is undoubtedly the OctopusGripper (below), with its pneumatically-controlled soft silicone structure and rows of suction cups. The tentacle bends inwards to wrap around objects when compressed air is applied and secures its grip on a wide variety of different shapes with the help of two rows of actively and passively controlled suction cups.
The OctopusGripper has been designed to work with the two lightweight robot arm concepts created for the Messe. The movements of the BionicCobot have been modeled on a human arm – from the shoulder to the elbow to the radius and ulna to the gripping hand. Festo says that the combination of its seven joints and biceps/triceps operating mechanisms allow it to make very delicate movements, which can be programmed by the operator using a drag-and-drop interface running on a tablet.
The Network's BionicMotionRobot is all about fluid movement, marrying valve and control technology with flexible pneumatic bellows. Its inspired by an elephant's trunk and is reported to exhibit 12 degrees of freedom. The elastomer bellows that help achieve this are covered in a special knitted fabric that allow the bot to "fully deploy the great force potential of the entire kinematic system." The arm boasts a loadbearing capacity of almost 3 kg, which also happens to be its own weight.
Festo's concepts will be on display at the Hannover Messe next month.