Handling and assembly

Efficient use of lightweight construction

Additively manufactured automation systems convince through energy efficiency, weight reduction and functionality. The trend is characterized by ever-faster process cycles and lightweight construction solutions.

The newly gained freedom in design helps to save components and combine assemblies, for example gripper fingers, which could previously only be manufactured from several individual parts using conventional production methods. The lower weight allows a higher payload or handling speed.

Bionic Gripper

Bionic Gripper

For different load conditions, systems are transferred from nature that best meet defined requirements in function and structure. One example is stiffening by profiling. Here, systematic natural solutions are transferred into technical solutions that have the desired stiffness, mobility and elasticity. The bionic structures are then implemented in a gripper system using additive technologies.


Complex geometries in lightweight construction

Festo AG in Esslingen near Stuttgart is one of the companies successfully using additive manufacturing technologies. Festo has, for example, developed a bionic gripper modelled on the fish fin. If you lightly press your finger against the tail fin of a trout, it does not bend away in the direction of pressure, but moves towards the finger. The fin ray effect makes this possible. The "FinGripper" consists of three fingers in the shape of the Fin-Ray structure - similar to the caudal fin. Despite its complex filigree structure, it can be produced cost-effectively using selective laser sintering. The special advantage: the component is 90 percent lighter than a conventional gripper made of metal is.

The elephant's trunk was the biological model for another handling assistant developed by Festo engineers in cooperation with researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart. It is flexible, transmits high forces and is an extremely precise gripping tool.

Rapid manufacturing enables such complex geometries to be produced very quickly using lightweight polyamide. The handling system also convinced the jury for the German Future Prize.


Project examples

Bionic Handling Assistant

The project »Model Elephant Trunk - a high-tech helper for industry and household« received the »Deutscher Zukunftspreis« in 2010.

Dr. Peter Post and Markus Fischer from Festo AG & Co. KG, Esslingen and Andrzej Grzesiak from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart and their teams created a uniquely flexible handling assistant for a new generation of versatile assistance systems based on design principles from nature. The high-tech symbiosis of bionics, pneumatics, mechatronics and handling technology as well as generative manufacturing technology is remarkable.

The Federal President's Prize for Technology and Innovation is endowed with 250,000 euros and honors both the development of the process and its successful implementation in the market.