Conventional production processes are pushed to their absolute limits with bionic structures. On the other hand, Additive Manufacturing offers maximum construction freedom, which is ideal for bionic technology.
Bionics uses solutions found in nature to solve technical problems. Evolutionary processes have produced a great range of broadly diverse biological structures:
Over one million animal species and around 500,000 different plant types are now known to us. These biological systems often have forms and structures that are perfectly adapted to their environments and that are developed with minimum use of materials and energy. The interdisciplinary field of research into bionics aims to exploit this enormous potential by adapting the natural blueprints to technical applications.
However, one problem remains: until now it has been very difficult, if not impossible, to produce the highly complex structures and shapes using conventional manufacturing processes. Additive Manufacturing meets this challenge for the first time: it offers developers almost unlimited construction freedom, while at the same time the production without tools saves time and costs. The ground-breaking technology permits genuine innovations in medicine, for example in the area of ergonomics, or in aviation, for example when it comes to aerodynamics.
One specific example of this is the manufacture of a bionic gripper that can pick up objects gently, flexibly and yet powerfully, and then place them down again. The form and function follow nature. The FORMIGA P 100 from EOS enabled automation specialists Festo to produce the parts they required in a small batch quickly and cost-efficiently.
The results speak for themselves: thanks to the superior construction freedom, the production process is extremely flexible and can be adapted to the design. The integration of functions in the component directly during production meant that Festo was able to reduce the number of individual parts and the assembly effort involved significantly. The resulting gripper is lightweight and long-lasting. The price is also right: Festo managed to save time and money because no tools were required in the production process.
Klaus Müller-Lohmeier, Head of Advanced Prototyping Technology at Festo, is impressed: “Laser sintering first made it possible for us to produce the bionic handling assistant and its gripper arm, the adaptive DHDG gripper. The complexity and the necessary integrated functionality of the parts meant that there was no alternative production method.”