Skip to main content

The Pneumatic Pachyderm & Other Bionic Wonders

Inspired by the flexibility of an elephant's trunk, engineers in Germany have developed a "Bionic Handling Assistant" that is both light and flexible and could be used as a third arm in places ranging from industrial workshops to assisted living centers.



The robotic arm, made of lightweight plastic and powered by compressed air, was designed by a team from Festo, a German supplier of pneumatic and electrical automation parts, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing and Engineering Automation.

They were inspired by the flexibility of an elephant's trunk which has over 40,000 muscle fibers that allow it to move in any direction. Though it's not yet clear how the robotic arm could really be used, it is eerily similar to a real elephant trunk. That they were able to replicate the unique appendage with little more than plastic and air is pretty cool, too.

If you watch the video above, besides occasionally looking behind the trunk for the rest of the elephant's head, you'll probably have a strong reaction to the cool Festo inventions making cameos at the 2:15 minute mark. In case you wanted more, here they are in all their mesmerizing glory:







Now, if they would find a way to combine this elephant arm with the ingenious granular gripper, we'd be in business.

Comments

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know:
"What's going on in this video? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream.

(We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux)

Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?