The Festo BionicKangaroo – Energy-efficient jump kinematics


Each year the Festo Bionic Learning Network presents a new innovation using the natural world as inspiration to find new and better ways to provide motion. Following on from the SmartBird, Bionic Handling Assistant (elephant trunk) and last year’s BionicOpter, the 2014 innovation is the BionicKangaroo.

A development team from the Bionic Learning Network spent two years recreating the jumping behaviour of the natural kangaroo, trying to replicate it and learn from it. The BionicKangaroo now demonstrates how the natural kangaroo recovers and stores energy and retrieves it on the next jump. A kangaroo has a pronounced Achilles tendon which assumes an important function for the kinematics of its movement. On the BionicKangaroo, the function of the natural Achilles tendon is carried out with the help of an elastic band made of rubber. This is fastened at the back of the foot and parallel to a pneumatic cylinder on the knee joint, cushioning the jump and simultaneously absorbing the kinetic energy and releasing it for the next jump.

A variety of technologies are used to provide motion to the BionicKangaroo. The required stability for jumping and landing is achieved through condition monitoring as well as precise control technology. The model achieves its high jumping power with the aid of pneumatics, whilst where the highest positioning accuracy is called for, electric motors are used, such as when it comes to controlling the tail and hip. In this way Festo uses the artificial kangaroo to show how pneumatic and electric drives can be combined by means of new control technology developed by Festo to make a highly dynamic system.

Festo paid particular attention to the mobile energy supply on the artificial kangaroo. For this purpose, the team even developed two different concepts – one with an integrated compressor and one with a mobile high-pressure storage device. The movement apparatus (kinematics) is made out of laser-sintered parts reinforced with carbon. As a result, the artificial animal weighs just seven kilograms with a height of around one metre, and it can jump up to 40 centimetres high and up to a distance of 80 centimetres. The BionicKangaroo is controlled using gestures.

See the BionicKangaroo in action