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At the 2011 Hannover Trade Fair, Festo will present future concepts in automation technology that are inspired by nature and are put into practice in the Bionic Learning Network.

With Smartbird, engineers from Festo claim they have deciphered the flight of birds, thus accomplishing further progress in automation technology.

Just as with the Bionic Handling Assistant, which in 2010 received the German Future Prize, a major international design award, Festo is focusing this year on energy efficiency and lightweight construction.

Festo will have 66 new products on show for use in numerous fields, from safe automation and intelligent mechatronics up to new drive and handling technologies, energy efficiency and lightweight construction techniques.

The company thinks the highlight for visitors will be to see the Smartbird in flight.

The key to its understanding how real birds fly is a unique movement that distinguishes Smartbird from all previous mechanical flapping-wing constructions and allows the lightweight, powerful flight model to take off, fly and land autonomously.

Smartbird flies, glides and sails through the air just like its real-life counterpart – the herring gull – with no additional drive mechanism.

Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist at specific angles.

This is made possible by an active articulated torsional drive unit, which in combination with a complex control system makes for what Festo claims is unprecedented efficiency in flight operation.

Festo has thus succeeded for the first time in attaining an energy-efficient technical adaptation of this model from nature.

The experience gained with the Bionic Learning projects Airray and Airpenguin was incorporated into the creation of Smartbird.

An unusual feature of Smartbird is the active torsion of its wings and the fact that it dispenses with the use of additional lift devices.

The aim of the Smartbird project was to achieve an overall structure that is efficient in terms of resource and energy consumption, with minimal overall weight, in conjunction with functional integration of propulsion and lift in the wings and a flight control unit in the torso and tail regions.

Further requirements were good aerodynamics, high power density for propulsion and maximum agility for the flying craft.

The outcome is a biomechatronic overall system.

In practice, this system is designed to operate above all in an energy-efficient manner: the propulsion and lift, as intended, are achieved solely by the flapping of the wings and have a power requirement of around 23W.

SmartBird has a total weight of around 450g and a wingspan of 2m.

Measurements have demonstrated an electromechanical efficiency factor of around 45 per cent and an aerodynamic efficiency factor of up to 80 per cent.

For these reasons, Festo claims that Smartbird is an excellent example of functional integration and resource-efficient lightweight design and demonstrates optimal use of airflow phenomena.

It will provide important design insights for the further optimisation of future generations of cylinders and valves.

The onboard electronics ensure precise wing control.

In addition, the torsion control parameters can be adjusted and thus optimised in real time during flight.

The wing flapping and twisting sequence is controlled to within only a few milliseconds and results in optimum airflow around the wings.

The Smartbird flight model has no rotating parts on its exterior, leading Festo to claim that it cannot cause injury.

It is further pursuing an approach that already played an important role in the development of the Bionic Handling Assistant: human-machine interaction.

This feature of both the Bionic Handling Assistant and Smartbird poses no risk to the human operator.

Smartbird joins the list of Festo’s future-oriented technologies that are expected to find practical application.

Possible uses range from stroke wing generators in the energy sector up to actuators for process automation.

Festo’s Smartbird will be making its first public flight at the 2011 Hannover Fair, which takes place between 4-8 April.

The company will be at stand number D07 in Hall 15.

About Festo

Festo manufactures pneumatic and electrical components and systems to support customers with factory and process automation. The company has an annual turnover in excess of 1.7 billion Euro, employs 12,800 people around the world and has facilities in 176 countries around the world. Festo operates an aggressive R&D programme investing 7.5% of sales annually, holds over 2,800 worldwide patents, introduces about 100 innovative new products to the market every year and has a product range of over 30,000. For more information about the company’s products and services, please visit our website.  

About Festo Didactic

Festo Didactic, the training and consultancy division of Festo, supports organisations seeking to develop competencies in sales & service, leadership, employee engagement, change management, team-working, coaching, business planning, production processes and automation technology. The division has particular expertise in working with manufacturing and engineering businesses. It has a full time workforce of over 200 and operates in 70 countries worldwide. Each year, it manages more than 230 consultancy projects and runs more than 2,900 open courses in 26 languages, involving some 42,000 participants. For more information about Festo Didactic, please visit the Festo website and follow the link.

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