manufacturing is used to build a robotic arm that mimics the trunk of an
team from Festo, a
control and automation specialist, and the Fraunhofer
research institute received a German technology award for development of the
Bionic Handling Assistant, which operates with compressed air and includes a
There are potential
applications for the innovation in manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture.
Bionic Handling Assistant turns our vision into reality, for the first time
enabling humans and machines to cooperate in complete safety," says Peter
Post, head of research at Festo, which is based in Esslingen, Germany.
"The main innovation lies in the system's unique human-machine
cooperation; in the event of a collision with a human, the Assistant's trunk
gently moves aside without causing any harm."
The trunk is
made of polyamide (nylon), which weighs considerably less than steel or aluminum
assemblies. The trunk is made with a selective laser sintering system from EOS.
components of the trunk include circularly-arranged pneumatic actuators.
Fischer, head of corporate design at Festo, says, "We were originally
fascinated by the structure of the elephant's trunk-it has over 40,000
individual muscle fibers and moves freely in all directions. This inspired us
to mimic nature, by developing a handling system which goes far beyond anything
currently available in industrial automation."
enlisted the support of Andrzej Grzesiak of the Fraunhofer Institute to drive
Festo is a
major innovator in additive manufacturing technology, which can replicate details
of many structures found in nature. A laser driven by a CAD file builds
structures in tiny layers. It allows freedom of design and production not
possible with plastic parts made from molds.
a "Fast Factory" in Esslingen in 2009 to implement new automation technologies
using additive manufacturing. Three additive manufacturing approaches are used
there: selective laser sintering (SLS) of plastic powders, laser melting of
metals such as aluminum and fused deposition modeling (FDM) for polymer
received a German technology prize called the "Deutscher Zukunftspreis" (German
Futures Award). Launched in 1997, the prize is the German President's award for