Biomimicry and 3D printing go hand in hand. Now Festo has introduced a robotic replica of a “flying fox”, a species of bat native to Asia and Australia. The replica is capable of flight and semi-autonomous navigation.
Generally, Festo produces a wide range of electronics equipment. Although, they have also been experimenting with aerodynamics. The bat is the culmination of all their efforts in the field. It weighs about half a kilogram despite being 7 feet wide and 3 feet long.
The company were able to make it fairly semi-autonomous with the use of infrared cameras. It references its location and flight path by communicating with a motion-tracking system. The pilot only has to get it to lift off and land, so the bat does most of the flying on its own.
The impressive recreation has a wingspan above 7 feet. Using elastane fibre, Festo were able to create a structure that allows the bat to fly in a similar way to its natural counterpart. Elastane is generally used for products that need a bit of elasticity, such as jeans. The company has made a name for themselves by incorporating design features in technology with the express purpose of copying animal motion.
The bat has a variety of flexible 3D printed components and some carbon rods for its main body. The wafer thin skin of the elastane fabric makes allows it to mimic the wings of the original creature. Similarly, the flexible 3D components give it the ability to mimic muscle motion.
Previously, the company has replicated butterflies and kangaroos. These animals provide crucial information about motion and organic structures. They allow for engineers to tackle major challenges in constructing odd types of motion and provide crucial research about mechanical functions within biological examples.