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Bionics – Following nature's example

The architecture of honeycombs

How the example of bees led to the development of a new axis technology and from there to new performance benchmarks in the wood processing industry.

“Handicraft is my passion,” says Karl Metz, who has worked in project management at Fill's Wood Competence Center since 2007. Karl is one of the company’s most creative employees, the best person to speak to when you need someone to think outside the mainstream. And he has plenty of projects to manage, not only professionally, but also at home.

“My father is a mechanic. When I was young, I loved peering over his shoulder in his workshop at home. Then later, when I was a teenager, all my friends brought their mopeds to me so that I could ... well ... spice them up a little. Today I use my handicraft garage mostly for projects for my children.”

//Karl Metz, Project Manager at the Wood Competence Center, Fill Gesellschaft m.b.H.

And Karl does not necessarily get all his inspiration for improving systems and machines while at work. Most of his brilliant ideas come when chatting to colleagues, to his neighbors, or when spending some quiet time in his workshop or hillwalking.

It all began with spot repair systems for parquet wooden flooring. Karl identified enormous improvement potential even with the smaller prototypes. The axes were very short, which meant that throughput speed was also very low. Furthermore, the drives were inadequately dimensioned. When his neighbor asked: "Why don't you simply make the whole thing much larger?," the wheels began to turn in Karl's mind.

Large axes are heavy and slow. How can you implement large axes in lightweight construction, which can achieve accelerations of up to 2 G, despite being up to 4.5 meters long? Then Karl remembered the structures of an airplane wing, the object of another project being implemented by the company at the time. And suddenly it all fell into place.

Hexagonal honeycomb sandwich construction is used wherever equally distributed forces act against each other. Design inspired by beehives, using a material structured in the form of a honeycomb, offers not only minimum weight, but also maximum stability together with low material use.

At the company, Karl initially met with misgivings – something like that’s never been done before! In addition, his drive concept was based on linear motor technology which was not yet fully developed at the time. But his colleagues knew that Karl’s ideas always make sense, and that’s why this extraordinary idea was implemented: the axis based on the honeycomb principle.

"Back in the day, spot repair machines were almost slower than people. But lightweight, honeycomb axes now allow us to build systems which meet the requirements of low weight, constant stability and fast speeds in the best possible way."

//Karl Metz, Project Manager at the Wood Competence Center, Fill Gesellschaft m.b.H.

 

A genuine bionic innovation, because something like this had never been done before. It’s obvious: Look at nature and you will find progress.

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