Gripping, holding, and releasing or placing objects are key activities of robots and other automated grippers used in production and assembly processes. As we've discussed before, some gripping devices use different versions of an exohand for precise movements, while other devices are more generalized, universalized grippers.
Festo used biomimicry as inspiration for different energy-efficient methods in the new NanoForceGripper and the PowerGripper, which is still a research project.
When it comes to the ratio of gripping force to weight, conventional grippers aren't always very energy efficient. But lots of efficient gripping strategies exist in nature. Festo set up its Bionic Learning Network to adapt the energy-efficient principles already found in nature to automation technology. The goal is to decrease industrial energy consumption by exploiting the potential of automated production processes. The network includes universities, institutes, and development companies that cooperate with Festo's engineers to foster research applying principles in nature to technology and industrial uses.
The PowerGripper, which mimics a bird's beak, employs Watt's linkage as a motion principle. It also uses Festo's fluidic muscle, a new type of pneumatic drive that enables motion sequences approaching human movement. The NanoForceGripper, not pictured, is modeled on a gecko's feet and is designed to grip very delicate objects with smooth surfaces, such as glasses or displays, using almost no energy. (Source: Festo)
Both the NanoForceGripper, which is modeled on the way geckos grip surfaces, and the PowerGripper, which mimics the mechanisms a bird's beak uses for grasping, originated in this network. Both devices are small and lightweight and have high gripping force-to-weight ratios.
The NanoForceGripper is designed to grip very delicate objects with smooth surfaces, such as glasses or displays, using almost no energy. The suction cup-like components are modeled on the pads of a gecko's feet. This technology complements pneumatic gripping technology. The Gecko Nanoplast tape on the gripper's underside has 29,000 gripping elements per cm2. Once an object has been gripped, the gripper continues to hold it without requiring energy, due to intermolecular van der Waals attraction forces. Previously, this type of energy-free holding of objects was not possible.
An egg is a perfect experiment, although I think a hardboiled one makes more sense. A raw egg can be tough to grasp correctly without breaking it by a human hand attached to a human paying close attention (I speak from experience...).
,,,or an egg. They would even impress me if it were a hard-boiled egg. You'd still see a shell crack if the grip was too abrupt. Regardless, the devices all do seem quite well-engineered. I guess the wisdom in this is for us all to continue to mimic nature, which has countless perfect designs. Thanks for the chat.
This is great engineering for robot end of arm tooling. The gripping motion seems smooth and solid. I have seen many times where a company will put in a 100,000 dollar robot cel, but the end of arm tooling looks like an Erector set.
Ann, the point I specifically admired was in the 2nd video, (Festo Power Gripper) during the first video segment of the 3-piece mechanical claw. This device was constructed with (3) grippers, radially spaced at 120° and showed the grasping motion while closing. Unfortunately the vide showed the gripper closing onto nothing (no target object; only air) but that gave a clear view of the effect I described as first snapping, then slowing to a controlled pressure grasp. Apparently, a very natural mimicry.
Nice to see designers looking to nature for inspiration. Who knows how many design iterations had to take place to end up with the various functional forms of birds' beaks? As a designer, I've often turned to nature to get some insight into some difficult mechanical structures. Thanks for the article.
Festo is definitely the leader of biomimicry based robotic systems as evident by this article and past ones written. I can see why animals are used as the inspirational force behind their designs because of their agility and speed. Manufacturing processes need to be lean and efficient. By using robots with the animal agilities, parts assembly processes,for example, can be expedited with ease. The Festo product videos are great to look at as well. Great article.
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.