bots IN BRIEF
12 SERVO 06.2015
MOVE OVER, MILLION
Robotic ants the size of a human hand that work together could be the future of
factory production systems.
The developers — German technology
firm, Festo — say it's not just the unusual
anatomy of real world ants that inspired the
bionic version; the collective intelligence of an
ant colony was also something they wanted
The bionic ants cooperate and
coordinate their actions and movements to
achieve a common goal, in much the same
way individual ants complete tasks for the
whole colony. Festo says that in the future,
production systems will be based on
intelligent individual components that adjust
themselves to different production demands
by communicating with each other.
The ants are able to complete complex tasks (like
transporting large heavy loads) by working together that
they wouldn't be able to achieve individually.
The robot features a stereo camera and a floor
sensor that together allow the ant to work out its
location and identify objects to be grabbed by grippers at
the front of its "head." The antennae double up as
chargers for the lithium batteries that power the ant's
movements. A radio module in the abdomen allows the
ants to communicate with each other wirelessly. Just like
their natural counterparts, the ants have six articulated
Festo says the way the ants are constructed is unique too. The
bodies of the bionic ants are made from a 3D printed plastic
powder, melted layer by layer with a laser. The circuitry is also 3D
printed on top of the body. Festo says this is the first time these
techniques have been combined.
The ceramic legs and pincers are flexible actuators that move
quickly and precisely without using much energy. Again, Festo says
the application of this so-called 'piezo' technology to miniature
robots like its bionic ants is a first.
The bionic ants are part of the developer's Bionic Learning
Network. Festo works on transferring natural phenomena to
engineering techniques and equipment.
The technology firm says the factories of the future will have
to produce customized products, meaning that they will have
to adapt to different production requirements.
As reported by Amy Pollock of Reuters.