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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

We have been working intensively on the subject of bionics since the beginning of the 1990s. This field deals with applying natural mechanisms and principles of action 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, robotics specialists and students. They work closely with experts from other 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.

  • Within 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 of Jena, Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel, University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz, Oslo and Akershus University, Department of Product Design, University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten, 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 company that puts great emphasis on learning, 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 solution development processes 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 solutions expertise in an appealing way in order to inspire young people to get involved with technology and to find new talent

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 act as development platforms which combine a whole host of technologies and components – from manufacturing concepts and series products in use 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 are at your side from market analysis, function simulation and prototypes, through to efficient and productive series production.

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

The Bionic Handling Assistant: future concept for the 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 work, and this has led to two concepts being further developed into series products.

Adaptive gripper finger DHAS: inspired by the fish fin

Adaptive gripper finger DHAS: inspired by the fish fin

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

In both parallel and 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 derived from 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 corresponding control with proportional valves.

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