“Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2010” won by the team of Festo and Fraunhofer IPA

Inspired by the elephant’s trunk, researchers have developed a completely new robotic arm. Carefully calibrated and flexible, this novel high-tech assistant can work in industry and at home. For this development, on December 1, Dr.-Ing. Peter Post and Dipl.-Ing. Markus Fischer, Festo, joined by Dipl. Andrzej Grzesiak of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA were given to the Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2010. The German Federal President Christian Wulff presented the award, which carries a purse of 250,000 euros.The elephant uses its trunk to pick up a potato cleverly. Carefully around him with the tip of the trunk and lifts it above his head before putting it gently in the hand of his keeper. There are about 40,000 muscles that elephant’s trunk with a hand grip extremely flexible and can move freely in any direction and can even rotate. An ingenious tool – flexible, powerful and yet sensitive. With three fingers of high-tech version cautiously lifts a raw egg from the hand of developer Peter Post, before passing it gently along Markus Fischer – almost as elegant as its biological model.

‘Our founder started the foundation 16 years ago when her daughter was diagnosed with LAM,’ said Jill Raleigh, executive director of the LAM Foundation, which helped fund the trials and recruit patients. ‘He found an article on the LAM. To say that this treatment today is incredible.’

The delicate and fluid movements are made possible by the sophisticated design of the bionic assistant management. The trunk is made of plastic folding structures arranged in series, an axis of furniture and a vacuum cleaner with three fingers, says Dr. Post, who heads research and development to Festus. The structural elements are flexible and can be manipulated with compressed air. So the core of high technology can be extended 70-110 cm in length.

Although it weighs only 1.8 kg, the flexible arm can lift up to 500 g. For comparison: conventional industrial robots can not move around a tenth of their weight. Another advantage of this third hand novel: the system is extremely light and flexible, because – unlike the classic robot – is made of plastic rather than metal and works with compressed air. This allows a unique kind of teamwork between man and technology. At the time, working around machines dynamically active and dangerous our goal was to create a handling system that is inherently malleable -. For people who can work with this system without any risk at all times, notes Markus Fischer .

Head of Corporate Design at Festo’s third hand can be used wherever people need mechanical support – such as packaging of sensitive goods or in an auto repair shop in rehabilitation or at home