Festo recently demonstrated the LearningGripper, a pneumatically actuated gripper that self learns the shape of an object and then specifically orients that object. The LearningGripper is a demonstration of a future generation of robots, machines, and processes that are more flexible than any of the production systems available today – ones that are faster and easier to set up.
The demonstration involved the LearningGripper teaching itself to handle a small ball and then orienting the Festo logo on the ball in a specific direction. “Today an enormous amount of time and energy goes into programming machines to handle a range of products,” states Richard Huss, Festo president and CEO. “Setup and programing are major manufacturing cost components for machine builders. This LearningGripper demonstration is a forerunner of a time where these programming costs – setup and maintenance – will be diminished. These new generation machines will self-optimize their own performance.”
The LearningGripper is a four-fingered gripper that looks like an abstract form of the human hand. The four fingers of the gripper are actuated pneumatically by 12 bellows actuators with low-level pressurization. Learning algorithms take the place of highly complex programming. The LearningGripper picks up motion sequences through learning by reinforcement.
Each year, Festo’s Bionic Learning Network provides new inspiration for automation technology. This year’s research focused on the areas of function integration, lightweight construction, and self-configuration and machine learning. The most stunning demonstration was the BionicOpter, a mechanical dragonfly, with the ability to move each of its four wings independently, enabling it to slow down and turn abruptly, to accelerate swiftly, and even to fly backwards.
As a global manufacturer of pneumatic and electric automation technology, Festo’s core business shapes production and work environments and offers its customers innovative solutions for those production systems, not only for today but also for tomorrow and beyond.
“Ongoing investment in blue-sky R and D isn’t as common as it once was,” Huss says. “And that is a problem because that kind of open-ended research it is truly an investment in the future. On average Festo annually invests about seven percent of its income on R and D.”
Visit the Bionic Learning Network webpage for past and present projects, including written and video presentations. For more information on Festo innovative automation solutions in a host of industries and applications, call Festo at 800.993.3786 and visit www.festo.com/us.