Date: April 29, 2015, No. 33

Technology from the University of Stuttgart for show in the German pavilion

Expo 2015: Countdown in Milan

When the world exhibition Expo 2015 opens its doors from 1 st May in Milan going by the motto “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life“, technical solutions from the University of Stuttgart will be making an essential contribution to its success in terms of visitor numbers. A highlight of the presentation by Germany at the Expo is the show “ Be(e) active“, at which visitors will be able to immerse themselves in a diverse and lively landscape. They will see Germany from the perspective of flying bees that accompany them on their flight above the country. Engineering achievements and software developments at the University of Stuttgart have enabled this show attraction in the German pavilion.

With a view to opening the German pavilion, University Rector Wolfram Ressel emphasised the following:
”The University of Stuttgart has developed tried and trusted industrial technology to the extent that the unusual requirements were able to be fulfilled by including current research findings. Without both our software developments, this implementation of the idea with the bee’s eyes in the show would undoubtedly hardly have been possible. We are delighted that the University of Stuttgart after the success at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai is also involved in the German pavilion in the world exhibition in Milan 2015 as an exclusive research partner.“

Moved by wire ropes, driven by winches that two cable robots control, two large bee’s eyes serve as the projection surface in Milan. They are moved over the heads of the visitors almost like they are flying through the room. What sounds so simple is associated with great technical and scientific know-how provided by the University of Stuttgart. The Institute for Technical and Numerical Mechanics (ITM) developed the software with which the movement of both cable robots was programmed. It initially determines the flight paths of the eyes as well as their alignment and viewing direction.  

The Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools (ISW) of the University of Stuttgart developed the control software for both cable robots for this purpose that each hang on eight ropes and that can move about the room and twist around. This software implements the previously programmed trajectories and alignments of the eyes in certain movements by the robots shortening or lengthening the ropes depending on the desired direction. Moreover, the speed of the individual ropes has to be variable – appropriate to the dramaturgy of the flight of the bees.  

ITM Director Prof. Peter Eberhard characterised the engineering achievements: “The translational movements and tilting movements of the oversized bee’s eyes with projection surfaces on the lower side flying over people in a time span of six months demanded the greatest possible reliability and safety in all aspects. In the case of the cable robots that only half tensed from above are not to appear like technical robots in the aesthetics of the show, restrictions in movement possibilities and other technical challenges had to be overcome in addition.“

Around 16,000 people will be able to experience the exhibition and the live show every day in the “Fields of Ideas“. By the end of the Expo 7,500 to 10,000 shows are planned; up to three million people will then have seen and experienced through the eyes of a bee that Germany is a lively, fertile landscape full of ideas and will know how meaningful an appreciative approach to nature is for future food supplies.

Further information can be found at

Further information:
Dr. Hans-Herwig Geyer, University of Stuttgart, Head of University Communication and Press Spokesperson,
Tel. 0711/685-82555, E-Mail: hans-herwig.geyer (at)