The projects from the Bionic Learning Network serve as development platforms that combine highly diverse technologies and components. Dr Elias Knubben, head of Corporate Bionic Projects, explained: “This year we have mainly been investigating new production technologies such as ‘digital fabrication’, as well as lightweight structures. One of our exhibits also shows what airborne assistance systems could look like in the working world of the future.”
Caterpillars provided the inspiration for Festo to develop the 3D Cocooner, a 3D printer that creates lightweight filigree structural parts from fibreglass thread in mid-air. Dr Knubben said: “The spinneret is precisely controlled by means of a handling system. As soon as they leave the spinneret, the sticky fibreglass threads are laminated with UV-hardening resin and are joined together to form complex structures.”
With the 3D Cocooner, the virtual design program directly conveys the manufacturing instructions for a product to the tool level. The digital chain can proceed directly from the initial concept to the finished product, without having to pass through the usual channels of sales, production and logistics.
FreeMotionHandling is an indoor flight object consisting of an ultralight carbon-fibre ring with eight adaptive propellers, in the middle of which is a rotatable helium ball with an integrated gripping element. The ball can autonomously manoeuvre in any desired direction, pick up objects and put them down again in a suitable place. When the ball approaches the object to be grasped, it plans its own subsequent movements by means of two integrated cameras.
Festo says this could open up new possibilities for the workspace of the future: spheres such as these could serve humans as airborne assistance systems in overhead operations or as conveyers in spaces with difficult access.
The Hannover Messe trade show takes place in Hannover, Germany, between 25 and 29 April 2016.