Motion Control & Drives


Revolution of the fluidic muscle

April 2003 Motion Control & Drives

Fluidic muscle technology from Festo is changing the nature of numerous process applications worldwide.

A tensile actuator that mimics natural muscle movement, the fluidic muscle can develop very high initial tensile forces in comparison with normal pneumatic cylinders. As the contraction motion progresses, force in the fluidic muscle decreases. This makes it possible to achieve strong acceleration, combined with a gentle approach to a desired end position.

The design of fluidic muscle is very simple. A length of fibre-reinforced tubing is held in place by two connectors. There are no moving mechanical parts and thus no external friction. This means that the fluidic muscle is suitable for a wide range of applications.

"The main advantages offered by the fluidic muscle are initial force up to 10 times as high as a conventional cylinder of the same diameter, very fast movement, cost effectiveness, tolerance of harsh environment and simplicity of use and installation," details Heimo Spreng, national sales executive, Festo South Africa.

With numerous intermediate positions, short cycle times and quick adaptation, the fluidic muscle offers excellent flexibility for use as a positioning drive. This makes it ideal for applications like feeding bottles and tin cans, as it can quickly adapt to various types and dimensions.

The cost-effective nature of this solution has seen it installed in applications like automotive doorframe bending machines, using a total of 12 40 mm fluidic muscles as tensile actuators. In comparison with previous solutions utilising chain drives and servomotors, the fluidic muscle represent a significantly more cost-effective solution overall.

Twelve fluidic muscles in a bending machine for automotive doorframe profiles
Twelve fluidic muscles in a bending machine for automotive doorframe profiles

In stamping machines, the fluidic muscle's intermediate-release function briefly raises the pressure roller of the feed unit during each working cycle. This removes all stress from the strip material to be stamped, making it easier to place this between the dowel guides used to achieve reliable and correctly positioned feed to the stamping tools.

The technology also provides sensitive brake regulation, required by applications such as rewinding sheet metal. As the tensile force with which the metal bands are wound changes during rewinding, a brake is required to control the speed - the less band remaining on the spool, the greater the force. A stick-slip-free drive such as the MAS fluidic muscle from Festo is perfectly suited to the task, as a very sensitive control is possible, even at low speeds and forces.

"There are many more applications where we are finding the fluidic muscle to be more effective than traditional solutions and I am confident that this product will be remembered as one of the greatest inventions Festo ever came up with," Spreng concludes.

For more information contact Richard Teagle, Managing Director, Festo, 011 971 5500, richard_teagle@festo.com, www.festo.com



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