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23 April, 2018

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Bionic gripper draws inspiration from fishtails
Published:  30 May, 2009

On its stand at the Hannover Fair, Festo was demonstrating a prototype device for gripping and manipulating delicate and odd-shaped workpieces. The BionicTripod device has evolved out of work that Festo has done in recent years on mimicking biological structures to produce mechanical versions of aquatic creatures such as penguins, rays and sharks.

The BionicTripod (shown below) consists of three glass fibre rods arranged in a pyramid formation. By drawing the rods together or spreading them apart, it can be made to move in any direction. The movements of the rods, which have a similar structure to the tail of a fish, are controlled by electric linear actuators and drives.

At the end of the rods is a pneumatically-powered adaptive gripping device – the FinGripper – in the form of a bellows and three gripping fingers. The fingers adapt to the contours of the workpiece while applying a gentle lateral force. In the Hannover demonstration, the device was picking up lightbulbs.

To minimise the weight of the FinGripper it was created using a selective laser sintering process, which applies and hardens successive 01mm-thick layers of a polyamide powder. The result is a gripper than weighs 90% less than a comparable metal gripper, and can be moved using much less energy.

Festo foresees many potential applications for the BionicTripod technologies including sorting delicate food products of different shapes and sizes.

For more Hannover Fair news, see our in-depth report.

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