Ocean Wave Movements Make For Much Better Conveyer Belts

You wouldn't think there's much room for improvement when it comes to a conveyor belt, or much demand for it. They just move things along, right? Well Festo's new WaveHandling conveyor system can actually move objects in any direction, and even individually sort them allowing it to replace multiple components in an assembly line.

If you've ever teased your dog or cat by making a bump under the bed sheets with your hand, you're already familiar with how the WaveHandling system works. But instead of your hand, a matrix of inflatable actuators sits below a flexible surface and continuously distorts it creating waves and ripples that can move an object around.

So besides being able to move something in any direction, the new conveyor could be used in conjunction with overhead cameras to automatically sort and send multiple objects down different paths. Imagine a grocery checkout that automatically sent your eggs to a different bag than heavier items that could crush them, and you'll immediately see the potential here.

[Festo via Automaton]

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    balls make it look easy - they should have used boxes if they want to impress

      Perhaps the "real" version uses little roller balls on its surface so that the shape of the object to be moved is moot???

        maybe, but then why not showcase that?

    I could see that being used more for a massaging bed then a conveyor belt replacement

    I agree. this thing is good at moving a ball around, I don't think I have ever seen balls on a conveyor, balls roll so they don't need a conveyor, they can convey them self dam it.

    Seriously doubt this would work with boxes. This thing is a failure

    This is fine for objects like this if you can afford it. It's very complicated to build and no doubt very expensive. There's a reason conveyor belts are so common, it's just a series of rollers and a continuous belt. They'll be around for a long time yet, they are cheap and effective.

    Last edited 07/04/13 8:20 am

    I would imagine a better solution would be an air hockey like table with directional air jets. That way weight and size don't become much of a factor. This would only work for short conveyors, as this is a super expensive alternative to a bunch of rollers and one drive.

      No, weight and size would make this impossible. Just imagine how much air pressure you would need to lift or at least slide a box full of stuff? I know my air compressor can't do it.

        I was about to say the same thing.

        And even if someone wanted to commission such a system and it were feasible, I would think it'd be fraught with downtime.

    To have it work for boxes it would suffice to simply change the flat metal top of the actuator into a ball bearing. The same principle they allready use in large cargo movements in and from airplanes. It is a good idea in general with lots of potential but will take a while (like all new inventions) to make it viable (read cheap) for mass market.

    They need to flip it, so it is a grid of spheres being lifted to direct boxes.

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