The key topic of the Hannover Messe 2017 trade fair, “Integrated Industries, Creating Value”, is concerned with competitive advantage through digitalisation, new business models and added value through intelligent technology, and the networking of humans and machines. Prior to the fair, Festo is introducing the breakthrough innovation “Festo Motion Terminal” along with fascinating future-oriented technologies as part of its Bionic and Future Concepts.
Digitalisation is providing Festo with new opportunities for technological leadership and innovation, and will increase efficiency both in the processes within the company and for its customers. Gerhard Borho, Member of the Management Board of Festo AG for Finance, Information Management and Technology: “On the one hand our core business, in which we can better network our own processes with those of our customers and partners, is of course at the focus of our attention. However, we will also develop and market new products with embedded intelligence, which can connect themselves via the Internet, for example the Festo Motion Terminal. And to us, digitalisation also means pursuing new business models such as condition monitoring, energy efficiency or configurations.”
“Digital Customer Journey” – under this name, Festo will also be giving its customers comprehensive consultation in the virtual world in future. “Our customers will benefit from the fact that sales and consultation processes will be more continuous and the supply chain more transparent, more stable and safer,” says Gerhard Borho. In future, customers will be able to configure their machinery more rapidly via a consistently structured digital interface and test their interaction and functioning in advance by means of simulation tools together with manufacturers and operators. Embedded sensors in the products will warn against malfunctions or production stoppages before they can occur. The objective is to provide a virtual solutions consultant that bundles knowledge of our products and their interaction into a system and is at the disposal of customers and partners.
The future of pneumatics: The Festo Motion Terminal
With the Festo Motion Terminal Festo has developed a universal automation platform for highly flexible and adaptive automation with digitalised pneumatics. “With the fusion of hardware and software, we have achieved a genuine technological leap. Over the three-year course of development not only an intelligent pneumatic automation platform for Industry 4.0 has arisen, but in fact a key innovation for future production,” says Dr. Julia Duwe, Head of Future Motion Solutions Management. A wide variety of valve functions can now be programmed and addressed via apps. The Festo Motion Terminal, which combines the functions of over 50 individual components, is a door-opener and enabler for companies that want to make their production fit for Industry 4.0.
Innovations from the Bionic Learning Network in 2017
A bionic approach to robotics
The projects of the Bionic Learning Network serve as development platforms that bring together a wide variety of technologies and components. “This year we are presenting future-oriented robot concepts on the basis of pneumatics,” says Dr. Elias Knubben, Head of Corporate Bionic Projects. All three projects show what hazard-free, direct human-robot collaboration could look like in future. At the focus here are bionically inspired lightweight robots with natural movement patterns that make them highly suitable for collaborative working spaces; in future they could represent a cost-efficient alternative to classic robot concepts. According to Dr. Knubben, such robots can be used as assistance systems for relieving the human operator above all in monotonous or dangerous work processes.
BionicCobot – a pneumatic lightweight robot with human movement dynamics
The movement patterns of the BionicCobot are modelled on those of the human arm, from the shoulder via the upper arm, elbow, radius and ulna down to its gripping hand. Each of its seven joints makes use of the natural operating mechanism of the biceps and triceps – the efficient interplay of flexor and extensor muscles. It can thus execute very delicate movements, just like its biological model. “The movements of the BionicCobot can be finely regulated to suit the requirements at hand so as to be either powerful and dynamic or sensitive and readily yielding, so that the system cannot endanger humans even in the case of a collision,” emphasises Dr. Knubben. This is made possible by the pneumatic automation platform – the Festo Motion Terminal, which unites high-precision mechanics, sensors and complex control and measuring technology within a very small space. Depending on the task to be carried out, the BionicCobot can be fitted with different gripping systems, such as the OctopusGripper. The operations are intuitively carried out by means of a specially developed graphic user interface: the user can teach the BionicCobot the actions to be performed and parametrise them – “a special feature,” says Dr. Knubben.
BionicMotionRobot – a lightweight robot with natural forms of movement
“We also sought inspiration from nature for our second lightweight pneumatic robot,” says Dr. Knubben. “The elephant’s trunk and the octopus’s tentacles can move in a highly flexible way thanks to their intricately detailed kinematics.” The BionicMotionRobot effortlessly emulates these fluent movement patterns with its flexible pneumatic bellows structure and corresponding valve and control technology. The concept of inherently flexible kinematics is derived from the Bionic Handling Assistant from 2010, which received the German Future Award. A new type of outer skin made from a 3D textile knitted fabric now enables the BionicMotionRobot to fully deploy the great force potential of the entire kinematic system. The bionic robot arm thus has a load bearing capacity of almost three kilograms – with around the same net weight.
OctopusGripper – gripping modelled on the octopus’s tentacle
Festo is presenting a bionic gripper called the OctopusGripper, which is derived from an octopus’s tentacle. The gripper consists of a soft silicone structure that can be pneumatically controlled. If compressed air is applied to it, the tentacle bends inwards and can wrap around the object being gripped in a form-fitting and gentle manner. Just as with its natural model, two rows of actively and passively controlled suction cups are arranged on the inside of the silicone tentacle. “We developed the silicone tentacle in cooperation with the School of Mechanical Engineering and Automation at Beihang University (BUAA) in China,” Dr. Knubben reports. “This is a further example of our worldwide project partnerships that we are pursuing in the context of our Open Innovation initiative in the Bionic Learning Network.”
SupraMotion 2017: Transporting and manoeuvring in suspension with superconductivity
Festo is showcasing three new, exciting concepts for the industrial application of superconductor technology at the Hanover Messe 2017. With SupraDrive a suspended transport sledge can operate highly dynamically, with SupraShaker a suspended vibration system with tilting option is realised. SupraLoop shows how the superconductor technology can be easily combined with other transport systems. “The special characteristics of superconductors open up great potential for them wherever contact-free storage or handling is required. Automation can thus make inroads into areas of application that until now have been regarded as not or only hardly accessible to automation,” said Georg Berner, Head of Strategic Corporate Development, Group Holding Festo and Project Coordinator for the SupraMotion concepts. “We have now developed a total of 15 different concepts for four key areas of automation: transportation in any spatial orientation, transferring suspended objects between systems, manoeuvring objects at a distance, and exchanging suspended objects and setting them in motion. We are currently working together with customers on launching some initial pilot projects.”
Festo at the Hannover Messe 2017
From 24th to 28th April 2017 at its main booth in Hall 15, Booth D11, Festo will be exhibiting its Festo Motion Terminal along with further product innovations for factory and process automation and the new Future and Bionic Concepts. Further booths with Festo products are in in Hall 8 Booth D20 (SmartFactory KL), Hall 9 Booth D68 (PROFIsafe) and Hall 19 Booth A60 (Predictive Maintenance).