Ants are considered to be hard workers living in large colonies with a clear hierarchy. Working as a team, they can perform tasks that a single animal would not be able to perform on its own. For the BionicANTs, we have not only taken the delicate anatomy of the natural ant as a role model. For the first time, the cooperative behavior of the creatures is also transferred to the world of technology using complex control algorithms.
Like their role models from the natural world, the BionicANTs work together according to clearly defined rules. The small robots communicate with one another and coordinate their actions and movements. The artificial ants thus show how autonomous individual components can jointly solve a complex task as a networked overall system.
In an abstract way, this cooperative behavior provides interesting approaches for the factory of tomorrow. Future production systems will be based on intelligent components that can adjust flexibly to different production scenarios and thus execute orders assigned at the master controller level.
But not only the cooperative behavior of artificial ants is amazing. Their production process is unique in itself. The laser-sintered components are finished with visible conductor structures using the 3D MID process. As a result, they perform constructive and electrical functions at the same time.
The actuator technology of the legs makes use of the advantages of piezo technology. Piezo elements can be controlled very precisely and quickly. They work with low-energy, virtually wear-free and require little installation space. Therefore, three trimorphic piezo ceramic bender actuators are installed in each thigh, and they are actuator and constructive component in one. By deformation of the upper bending transducer, the ant raises its leg. With the pair attached underneath, each leg can be deflected exactly forwards and backwards.
Ingenious concept: numerous components, technologies and functions are combined in each robot ant in the smallest of spaces
What do the ants have in common with the Industrial Internet of Things? And what challenges did our engineers face in the development of these delicate technology test beds? Take a look behind the scenes and immerse yourself in the world of the Bionic Learning Network.
The Making-of video