Pneumatics & Hydraulics


Robotics meets artificial intelligence

June 2019 Pneumatics & Hydraulics

Whether its grabbing, holding or turning, touching, typing or pressing – in everyday life, we use our hands as a matter of course for the most diverse tasks. In that regard, the human hand, with its unique combination of power, dexterity and fine motor skills, is a true miracle tool of nature. What could be more natural than equipping robots in collaborative workspaces with a gripper modelled after this ‘miracle of nature’, which solves a variety of tasks by learning through artificial intelligence? Festo’s pneumatic robot hand – BionicSoftHand – combined with the BionicSoftArm, a pneumatic lightweight robot, shows how such futuristic concepts are suitable for human-robot collaboration.

The BionicSoftHand is pneumatically operated so that it can interact safely and directly with people. Unlike the human hand, the BionicSoftHand has no bones. Its fingers consist of flexible bellows structures with air chambers. The bellows are enclosed in the fingers by a special 3D textile coat knitted from both elastic and high-strength threads. With the help of the textile, it is possible to determine exactly where the structure expands and generates power, and where it is prevented from expanding. This makes it light, flexible, adaptable and sensitive, yet capable of exerting strong forces.

Artificial intelligence

The learning methods of machines are comparable to those of humans. Either in a positive or a negative way, they require feedback following their actions in order to classify and learn from them. BionicSoftHand uses the method of reinforcement learning. This means that instead of imitating a specific action, the hand is merely given a goal. It uses the trial and error method to achieve it. Based on feedback, it gradually optimises its actions until the task is finally solved successfully.

Specifically, the BionicSoftHand should rotate a 12-sided cube so that a previously defined side points upwards at the end. The necessary movement strategy is taught in a virtual environment with the aid of a digital twin, which is created with the help of data from a depth-sensing camera via computer vision and the algorithms of artificial intelligence.

Proportional piezo valves for precise control

In order to keep the effort of tubing the BionicSoftHand as low as possible, the developers have specially designed a small, digitally controlled valve terminal, which is mounted directly on the hand. This means that the tubes for controlling the gripper fingers do not have to be pulled through the entire robot arm. The BionicSoftHand can be quickly and easily connected and operated with only one tube each for supply air and exhaust air. With the proportional piezo valves used, the movements of the fingers can be precisely controlled.

BionicSoftArm: one robot arm, many possible variations

The strict separation between the manual work of the factory worker and the automated actions of the robot is increasingly being set aside. Their work ranges are overlapping and merging into a collaborative working space. In this way, human and machine will be able to work together simultaneously on the same workpiece or component in the future, without having to be shielded from each other for safety reasons.

The BionicSoftArm is a compact further development of Festo’s BionicMotionRobot, whose range of applications has been significantly expanded. This is made possible by its modular design. It can be combined with up to seven pneumatic bellows segments and rotary drives. This guarantees maximum flexibility in terms of reach and mobility, thus enables it to work around obstacles even in the tightest of spaces if necessary. At the same time, it is completely flexible and can work safely with people. Direct human-robot collaboration is possible with the BionicSoftArm, as well as its use in classic applications, such as pick-and-place tasks.

Flexible application possibilities

The modular robot arm can be used for a wide variety of applications, depending on the design and mounted gripper. Thanks to its flexible kinematics, the BionicSoftArm can interact directly and safely with humans. At the same time, kinematics makes it easier for it to adapt to different tasks at various locations in a production environment. The elimination of costly safety devices such as cages and light barriers shortens conversion times and thus enables flexible use, completely in accordance with adaptive and economical production

For more information contact Kershia Beharie, Festo, +27 11 971 5509, kershia.beharie@festo.com, www.festo.co.za



Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Rethinking pneumatic technology for the factories of the future
September 2020, Parker Hannifin Sales Company South , Pneumatics & Hydraulics
Does a technology such as pneumatics have a central role to play in the flexible, smart production lines of the factories of the future?

Read more...
Do all wireless solutions solve real industry problems?
September 2020, Festo South Africa , Industrial Wireless
By using modern, standards-driven wireless technologies, designers and machine users have access to new tools that can help transform and simplify their working lives.

Read more...
Hydraulic hose installation and maintenance
September 2020, Bearing Man Group t/a BMG , Pneumatics & Hydraulics
BMG’s portfolio of components includes the full range of Eaton Winner hydraulic braided and spiral hose and fittings.

Read more...
Condition monitoring in the cloud
August 2020, Festo South Africa , Maintenance, Test & Measurement, Calibration
Detecting irregularities at an early stage and initiating the necessary measures before a system failure are now made possible by the dashboards and IoT gateway CPX-IOT from Festo. The turnkey, preconfigured ...

Read more...
Experience digitalisation at the Festo Virtual Exhibition
June 2020, Festo South Africa , News
Festo is breaking new ground with its first-ever Virtual Exhibition scheduled to take place from the 15-16 July. Visitors will get to experience digitalisation as never before. This exhibition will be ...

Read more...
Festo TechTalk: Energy efficiency thanks to smart products
July 2020, Festo South Africa , IT in Manufacturing
This year’s TechTalk focused on smart products that help companies to produce energy efficiently, educational measures that empower employees for lifelong learning as well as for the digital working world ...

Read more...
Festo online configurator tool simplifies sizing of process valves
April 2020, Festo South Africa , Valves, Actuators & Pump Control
From manually operated to automated process valves, the new configurator tool for process valves from Festo makes selecting the right solution easy and less time-consuming.

Read more...
Seamless integrated connectivity for electric automation from Festo
April 2020, Festo South Africa , Fieldbus & Industrial Networking
The cloud is everywhere. We save data on the cloud and access it on our phones and computers from anywhere at our convenience. The same applies to seamless connectivity in industrial automation from your ...

Read more...
RS adds self-adjusting double-acting air cylinders
December 2019, RS Components SA , Pneumatics & Hydraulics
RS Components has expanded its offering from factory automation manufacturer Festo to include new double-acting pneumatic cylinders in the DSBC product range. Aimed at both machine builders and maintenance ...

Read more...
Festo’s digitalised product world
January 2020, Festo South Africa , System Integration & Control Systems Design
HoloLens, mobile phones, 3D printing and smart glasses – the gadgets that captured the public imagination in the blockbuster movie ‘Back to the Future’ over 30 years ago have now become a reality, all thanks to digitalisation.

Read more...