bionic handling assistant

The 2010 German Future Prize – aka the Deutscher Zukunftspreis, a true prize with 250.000 euros for the winner(s) – went to Festo and Fraunhofer IPA for their Bionic Handling Assistant. Festo has a long history in biomimetic systems and also this time nature provides inspiration for their innovative design: the elephant’s trunk. Robust yet gentle, flexible yet precise.

“The plastic trunk is made of bellows structures arrayed in series, a movable hand axis and a grabber with three fingers,” explains Dr. Post, who heads up the research and development project at Festo. The structural elements are flexible and can be manipulated using compressed air. If air is pumped into the trunk, the bellows structures extend as an accordion would. This is how the high-tech trunk can be extended from 70 to 110 centimeters in length.

“The plastic trunk is made of bellows structures arrayed in series, a movable hand axis and a grabber with three fingers,” explains Dr. Post, who heads up the research and development project at Festo. The structural elements are flexible and can be manipulated using compressed air. If air is pumped into the trunk, the bellows structures extend as an accordion would. This is how the high-tech trunk can be extended from 70 to 110 centimeters in length.

The three fingers fitted to the trunk are also designed with a biological model in mind – the tail fin of a trout. The special feature: if you press these “FinGrippers” lightly with your finger, rather than retract in the direction of the pressure, they respond by moving toward the source of pressure.

The individual structural elements of the flexible arm are produced in additive manufacturing.

Via Research in Germany

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