I am heading to Hannover, Germany to cover the famous Hannover Fair for Automation World. Preceding the event, Festo held a press conference to preview its themes.

The overall Festo theme is “From resource protection to the production environments of the future.”

“Integrated Industry” is the key theme of the Hanover Fair 2013. The preview of highlights ranged from energy efficiency in urban infrastructures through to the production environments of the future and the latest developments from the Bionic Learning Network.

“Integrated and Networked into the Future” – this was the slogan with which the speakers at this year’s online press conference characterised the change in industrial automation, moving towards flexible and adaptive production. Process monitoring and efficiency were emphasised in the remarks made regarding worldwide water supply, marking the fact that 2013 is World Water Year.

Drinking water for Russia

Dipl.-Ing. Armin Müller, responsible for the Industry Segment Water/Wastewater Treatment at Festo, described how solutions from process automation can be turned into sustainable solutions for cities and local authorities. “A current drinking water project in St. Petersburg represents our contribution to Russia, this year’s Hanover Fair partner country. St. Petersburg is the most northerly city in the world with a population of one million or more. Vodokanal, the water utility company in St. Petersburg, supplies 4.8 million people with 1.9 million cubic metres of drinking water every day. Festo is currently working on site on the water project in St. Petersburg. Pneumatic automation technology from Festo is helping here by providing energy-efficient solutions for new treatment plants,” explained Müller.

Integrated Industry

How highly developed are the associated technologies and automation concepts today? And how will the production operations of the future look? Two Festo experts were on hand to answer these questions. These were Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Post, Head of Research and Programme Strategy and Dipl.-Ing. Eberhard Klotz, Head of Marketing Concepts, Products and Technologies. “We view an approach with the automation platform CPX as a possible basis for the ‘Integrated Industry’ concept,” said Klotz. Prof. Post also took up this key theme in his presentation. “The theme of ‘Integrated Industry’ is also being used at the Hanover Fair to address the future project ‘Industry 4.0’. Decentralised system intelligence, a high degree of adaptability, simple system engineering and machine commissioning – in the production operations of the future, networking will be everywhere as real and virtual worlds merge,” observed Prof. Post.

Bionic Learning Network 2013

In the Bionic Learning Network, a joint venture between Festo and universities, technical institutes and development companies, engineers have researched and further developed technical concepts and industrial applications on the basis of models in nature – with regard to the Hanover Fair 2013, these developments relate in particular to the production and working environments of the future. In the course of the online press conference, Dr.-Ing. Heinrich Frontzek, Head of Corporate Communication and Future Concepts at Festo, presented two projects which are helping to make new technologies and solutions available to the field of automation technology and at the same time meet the current demands of society. These projects are the BionicOpter and superconductor technology.

Inspired by the flight of the dragonfly

The BionicOpter is an ultralight flying object. With a wingspan of 63 cm and a body length of 44 cm, the artificial dragonfly weighs no more than 175 grams. Just like its model in nature, the BionicOpter can fly in all directions and execute the most complicated flight manoeuvres. The BionicOpter’s ability to move each of its wings independently enables it to slow down and turn abruptly, accelerate swiftly and even fly backwards. “This unique way of flying is made possible by lightweight construction and the integration of functions: components such as sensors, actuators and mechanical components, together with open- and closed-loop control systems, which are installed in a very tight space and matched accurately to one another,” explained Frontzek. “This means that for the first time there is a model that can master all the flight conditions of a helicopter, a winged aircraft and even a glider. Despite its complexity, the highly integrated system can be operated easily and intuitively via a smartphone.”

Superconductors for resource-efficient industrial automation

“Festo is currently conducting research into the potentials of superconductor technology to develop applications for automation technology,” explained Dr.-Ing. Heinrich Frontzek. Superconductors are metals, metal compounds or ceramic materials which abruptly enter a superconducting state and by that lose their electrical resistance below a certain transition temperature. If a superconductor is cooled to below the transition temperature under the influence of the external magnetic field of a permanent magnet, it also changes its characteristics: the superconductor can store or “freeze” the magnetic field of the permanent magnet at a predefined distance and thus create a stable floating condition. The superconductor responds to any attempt to move it by returning to the stored position. Three research projects are being conducted to demonstrate this characteristic of a frictionless, stable bearing without the need for complex measurement and control technology: SupraLinearMotion, SupraHandling and SupraPicker.

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