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Festo: Automation Innovation for the Future

“Greentelligence” is the motto of the Hanover Fair 2012. At an online press conference on 27 March 2012, Festo responded to this in advance with a preview of the highlights awaiting visitors to the Festo stand, dealing with topics from resource conservation in urban infrastructures to the production worlds of the future and the latest developments from Festo Bionic Learning Network.

ExoHand helps people grip
ExoHand helps people grip

Automation in water management
Ways in which sustainable process automation solutions can be created for cities and local authorities were illustrated by Dr. Eckhard Roos, Head of Process Automation Management at Festo (www.festo.com). “With our project for the energy-autonomous automation of decentralized water reservoirs in the water sector, we are demonstrating our contribution to the subject of ‘Greentelligence’. Our plant automation solution relies on regenerative energy and ensures that the maximum discharge from the rain overflow basin is not exceeded,” explained Roos. With this project, Festo has provided an example of an innovative, energy-efficient solution for decentralized applications in process automation.

Pneumatic and electrical technology: CO2 reduction in production operations
There are also many milestones to pass along the road to greater energy efficiency in production plants. “Energy efficiency in automation technology is always dependent on the relevant industrial application," emphasized Dr. Axel Gomeringer, Head of Innovation and Technology Management at Festo. This task needs to be clearly defined before users choose a drive technology--electric or pneumatic or a mixture of both. He explained the importance of correct measures and their effect on energy consumption and CO2 emissions in production plants by taking the example of a body-in-white production plant in the automobile industry. “Through various simple optimization measures, our client is already today able to reduce his CO2 emissions per year by 13 tons."

Bionic Learning Network 2012
In the Bionic Learning Network, a cooperation between Festo and renowned universities, institutes and development companies, engineers have researched and developed technical concepts and industrial applications by following nature’s principles--and the presentation of these at the Hanover Fair 2012 will have particular relevance to the production and working environments of the future. In the course of the Online Press Conference, Dr. Heinrich Frontzek, Head of Corporate Communication at Festo, presented two projects which make use of new automation technologies and solutions and at the same time meet some of the current challenges facing society: ExoHand and SmartInversion.

ExoHand--solutions for human-machine cooperation
Festo’s ExoHand is an exoskeleton that can be worn by an operator like a glove. The fingers can be actively moved and their strength amplified; the operator’s hand movements are registered and transmitted to the robotic hand in real time. “ExoHand can simulate all the major physiological degrees of freedom of a human hand. In doing this, it supports the various possibilities for gripping and touching which a human hand has,” explained Frontzek. The objectives were to enhance the strength and endurance of the human hand, to extend humans’ scope of action and to secure them an independent lifestyle even at an advanced age.

The benefit for Festo lies in the opportunity which this project offers for the expansion of its knowledge of human-machine cooperation in automation technology to include know-how in the field of remote manipulation and force boosting. Frontzek again: “In this form of direct interaction between man and machine, ExoHand is a possible technical solution to meet the challenges of future production and working environments--both real and virtual.”

SmartInversion--forward motion
The SmartInversion is a flying object, filled with helium, which is similar to a chain of cubes and moves forward by inverting itself with an endless, rhythmically pulsating motion in the air. This is made possible by an intelligent combination of extremely lightweight design, electric drives and open- and closed-loop control. The helium compensates for the effect of gravity on the chain of cubes, thus providing lift for the flying object. 2130 litres of helium are needed for approximately 2334 grams of lift in order to move the object through the air. Thrust is generated as the object inverts itself.

“Until now, Festo’s solutions have been oriented to the mechanical principles of rotation and translation. Rotary actuators, servo motors and pneumatic and electric semi-rotary actuators work on the principle of rotation, while linear axes and parallel grippers are examples of translatory kinematic mechanisms. We have been able to extend this morphology to include inversion,” explained Frontzek.

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