Bionic Learning Network

New inspiration for factory and process automation

In the everyday factory environment, automation technology takes care of typical tasks such as gripping, moving and positioning goods, as well as controlling and regulating processes. Nature finds simple and energy-efficient solutions for all of these tasks as a matter of course. So what could be better than looking at natural phenomena and learning from them? This is why we set up an international research network in 2006 with renowned universities and institutes, development companies and private inventors: the Bionic Learning Network. Find out more about the network and click your way through our future concepts from recent years.

Who is behind the Bionic Learning Network?

Participants in the Bionic Learning Network – interdisciplinary teamwork

Since the beginning of the 1990s, we have been working intensively on the subject of bionics – the transfer of natural mechanisms and operating principles to technology. When the Bionic Learning Network was founded in 2006, it established a lively and open exchange in cooperation with renowned universities, institutes and development companies.

Our core team consists of engineers, designers, computer scientists, biologists, robot specialists and students. They work closely with experts from other company divisions and external partners from all over the world. This open, interdisciplinary teamwork offers new perspectives and inspiration for industrial applications and possible series products for the future.

  • At Festo: core team of Bionic Projects, Research and Development, Product Management, Testing, Product Development, Product Design, Trade Show Stand Construction, Corporate Design, etc.
  • Universities and institutes:
    TU Berlin, Delft University of Technology, TU Ilmenau, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology Marburg, University of Oslo and Akershus, Department of Product Design, University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten, ZeMA Saarbrücken, University of Stuttgart, CIN University Tübingen, University of Ulm, Fraunhofer IPA, etc.
  • External companies: aeroix GmbH, Ebert Zobel Industrial Design GbR, Effekt-Technik GmbH, Evologics GmbH, JNTec GbR, Nnaisense SA, Sachs Engineering

The BionicKangaroo team: engineers, designers, biologists and software specialists from Festo

The BionicKangaroo team: engineers, designers, biologists and software specialists from Festo

What do we want to achieve with bionics?

The goals – more than just developing new technologies

Motivate, inspire, enthuse and kick-start innovation – as a technology leader and a learning company, we are pursuing a set of clear objectives with the Bionic Learning Network:

  • Establish networks and motivate people from different sectors to develop their ideas with us
  • Keep track of current trends in research and development and test new technologies and manufacturing methods
  • Increase creativity in the process to find solutions and drive preliminary product development through prototyping
  • Discuss possible solutions with our customers and partners and obtain customer feedback about issues related to innovation
  • Show our solution expertise in an appealing way in order to inspire young people for technology and to find new talents

The BionicANTs: cutting-edge technology, development platform and eye-catching solution all in one

The BionicANTs: cutting-edge technology, development platform and eye-catching solution all in one

How do you benefit as a customer?

Festo as a development partner – driving force for customer innovations

The future concepts of the Bionic Learning Network function as development platforms that combine a whole host of technologies and components, from manufacturing concepts and series products in application right through to software and control technology.

By continually optimising the individual technologies, we acquire in-depth knowledge and find innovative approaches to developing and improving new products and applications together with you. The expertise gained from this makes us the number-one partner for our OEM customers in a wide range of industries and requirements.

With the right components and solutions, services and expertise, we support your product development right from the start and guide you all the way from market analysis, function simulation and prototypes through to efficient and productive series production.

The Bionic Handling Assistant: future concept for simultaneous development of various cross-sectional technologies

The Bionic Handling Assistant: future concept for simultaneous development of various cross-sectional technologies

Adaptive gripper: from the bionic concept to series product

Gripping has always played an important role in the Bionic Learning Network. Nature is often a source of amazing ideas and new solutions for industrial applications. Numerous bionic gripping applications have already been developed in the network’s interdisciplinary research, and this has led to two concepts being further developed into series products.

Adaptive gripper finger DHAS: inspired by a fish's fin

Adaptive gripper finger DHAS: inspired by a fish's fin

The adaptive gripper finger DHAS is based on the amazing behaviour of a fish's tail fin. If you press sideways against the fin, it does not bend away, but curves around the pressure point. The developers have incorporated this so-called Fin Ray Effect® into their engineering design by using two flexible polyurethane strips that are connected by intermediate bridges.

Whether in parallel or centric arrangements, the stable yet pliable gripper fingers easily adapt to the shape of a workpiece when gripping. This enables gentle and reliable gripping of sensitive objects with irregular surfaces. The DHAS is already being used in the food industry, for example to sort fruit and vegetables.

Adaptive shape gripper DHEF: adaptable like a chameleon’s tongue

Adaptive shape gripper DHEF: adaptable like a chameleon’s tongue

The adaptive shape gripper DHEF is a further development of the FlexShapeGripper . Its operating principle is based on the tongue of the chameleon. In order to catch prey, the animal lets its tongue shoot out like a rubber band. Just before the tip of its tongue reaches the insect, it retracts in the middle, while 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 central element of the gripper is a silicone cap filled with slight excess pressure, which is modelled on the chameleon’s tongue. It wraps itself flexibly and tightly around the item being gripped. This allows an object to be enclosed and held. It is even possible to pick up several items at once, such as screws from a bowl, using appropriate actuation with proportional valves.