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.