Better factory automation design through biomechatronics

Automation company Festo has been experimenting with biomechatronics as a way to better develop their automation technologies.

Two years ago at Hannover Fair in Germany I caught my first glimpse of Festo’s ventures into biomechatronics. At the event, Festo introduced its automated herring gull (a seagull to those of here in the U.S.), which it referred to as the SmartBird. Essentially, the SmartBird is a light (less than 16 oz.) flying robot with a wingspan of more than 6 feet that can autonomously take off, fly, and land. Behind Festo’s development of the SmartBird is the company’s belief that learning more about efficiencies in natural motion can help deliver efficiencies in its automation technologies.

At this year’s SPS/IPC/Drives show, Fest unveiled its latest biomechatronic flier, the BionicOpter. This device is inspired by the dragonfly and can hover, fly in any direction, and glide.

According to Festo, the BionicOpter features thirteen degrees of freedom through control of the shared flapping frequency and twisting of individual wings in addition to an amplitude controller on each of the four wings. Amplitude control allows the intensity of the thrust to be regulated. When combined with the tilt of the wings to affect the direction of thrust, the remote-controlled dragonfly can reportedly assume almost any position in space.

The BionicOpter’s aim is to demonstrate the use of integrated systems, allowing it to identify and evaluate “complex events and critical states”.

R&D of this type underscores Festo’s concept of integrated automation based on its CPX automation platform . Dr. Ansgar Kriwet, a Festo management board member, noted at the SPS/IPC/Drives event that CPX is helping position Festo to take advantage of the Internet of Things as it develops because the CPX platform can integrate field device bus systems as well as industrial Ethernet.

Festo’s view is that through using integrated systems for automation technologies, the most efficient and natural ways of performing tasks can be found and then implemented safely, creating a more productive manufacturing environment.

Read more at Automation World.

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