Welcome to the jungle
Nothing is as efficient as nature. That is why German automation company Festo has stepped into the wild to apply biological principles to the world of engineering.
Why reinvent the wheel, when many solutions to traditional engineering challenges are already out there and are free? German company Festo has a goal to provide maximum productivity and competitiveness for its customers in factory and process automation.
In the company's Bionic Learning Network, a research network that links Festo to renowned universities, institutes, development companies and private inventors, it turned to the principles of nature to gain inspiration for technical applications and industrial practice. Animals perform such tasks as gripping, moving, controlling and measuring – tasks found in automation – instinctively and easily. Thus they may show humans how to achieve maximum efficiency with minimum energy consumption in a wide variety of ways.
The company has studied elephants' trunks in order to construct a flexible gripper arm and has looked at jellyfish to visualize the communication structures and real-time diagnostics of autonomic subsystems in water. In 2013 Festo used the motion of ocean waves to create a pneumatic conveyor belt that can both sort and transport objects.
The company's latest project is a "bionic kangaroo," inspired by its Australian real-life counterpart. The mechanism is a complex combination of pneumatic and electrical drive technology that mimics the animal's unique way of moving. Like its natural model, it can recover energy when jumping, store the energy from the landing phase and retrieve it efficiently on the next jump.
Since 2006, Festo has realized more than 40 projects in the program, using inspiration from such members of the animal kingdom as barracudas, penguins, stingrays and dragonflies.