Inspired by the motion of an elephant’s trunk, Festo AG developed the Bionic Handling Assistant, a mechatronic arm that can work closely and safely with humans. Unlike industrial robotic arms, which are typically enclosed in safety cages to protect nearby workers, the Bionic Handling Assistant is designed to interact directly with humans. Incidental contact with the mechatronic arm is harmless because the arm is made of lightweight polymer components driven by compressed air. Also, the pneumatics are managed by a control system that yields immediately in the event of a collision.
Festo researchers developed the control system using MATLAB® and Simulink® for Model-Based Design, and then implemented it on a programmable logic controller (PLC) using Simulink PLC Coder™. “With Model-Based Design, we can model, simulate, optimize, and generate code to implement the controller all in the same tool environment,” says Dr. Rüdiger Neumann, head of the research department for mechatronic systems at Festo. “As a result, our development process is more efficient, not only for the Bionic Handling Assistant, but for any project that requires a controller implementation with code generation.”