March 25, 2013

Exoskeletons to boost manufacturing worker productivity by 30% part of $10 billion market over the next ten years

Exoskeletons are being adapted for heavy manufacturing work to boost productivity and reduce injury.

Human Augmentation System (HAS)
– Increases productivity and quality of work, with reduced injury

Lockheed's Mantis (industrial exoskeleton adapted from the military HULC exoskeleton), which the Bethesda, Md.-based company envisions as finding a home in any industry in which workers must hold heavy equipment that can cause fatigue and back injuries.

Mantis has a mechanical extension for a wearer's arm and absorbs the strain from hefting a grinder or sander, Maxwell said. Tests found productivity gains of more than 30 percent, he said, and wearers showed their Macarena footwork to demonstrate the suits' flexibility.

Lockheed Martin's (LMT) HULC and MANTIS prototypes, which look like leg braces and a large backpack, can significantly increase an individual's strength. The MANTIS is slated for sale later this year and can make wielding heavy equipment in a factory or shipyard nearly effortless. California-based Ekso Bionics, meanwhile, employs exoskeleton technology to make suits for paraplegics that allow some disabled people to walk for the first time. It says it has sold 29 of the $130,000 devices worldwide so far. The market for such technology is pegged at some $10 billion over the next 10 years.

The biggest problem? Power. Most exoskeletons are battery operated, so they don't have much range yet. Still, MIT professor Hugh Herr is convinced. "The era that we're now entering is the bionic age," he says.


zeroG - Exoskeletal Arm Systems:

– Allows operators to use heavy tools as if weightless
– Supports the tool through a wide range of motion
– Requires no power
– Can reduce vibration transmission to operator
– Single arm stabilize tools up to 40 lbs

MANTIS - Lower Body Exoskeleton

– Provides critical mobility platform
– Transfers loads through structure to the ground
– Anthropomorphic design maintains operator flexibility
– No power, electronics, actuation required
– Simple to operate and minimal training required

Initial Heavy Tool Application Targets:

– Grinding
– Sawzalls
– Heat Induction tools
– Blasting / Hydrolancing
– Needle Guns
– Impact Wrenches
– Torque Wrenches
– Painting



Wave of human augmentation is coming

Ekso Bionics' device for spinal patients looks like the lower half of a black metal skeleton able to stand by itself on foot pads. Parker Hannifin's medical model breaks into five pieces and resembles elongated, plastic football thigh pads worn on the sides of users' legs.

Electric motors amplify the strength in their wearers' limbs or, in the case of the wheelchair-bound, to supply motive power. Computers and sensors help provide balance and guidance.

"There's a huge wave of human augmentation coming," said Ekso Bionics Chief Executive Officer Nathan Harding, whose Richmond, Calif.-based company has devices in operation at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey and other spinal-cord injury centers. "It's in its infancy."

HULC 2.0 exoskeleton will be worn under a uniform

Lockheed envisions a leap forward in battlefield mobility with its Human Universal Load Carrier — whose HULC acronym evokes images of Marvel Comics' Incredible Hulk, a green, super- strong mutant and sometime-ally of Iron Man. HULC is intended to let a soldier lug a 200-pound pack with minimal effort over a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) hike, Maxwell said.

Back strain is the most common non-combat injury because of the heavy packs soldiers carry, Maxwell said. Lockheed licensed some technology from Ekso Bionics to produce the HULC, which is set to enter a second development phase this year as the system is refined so it can be worn under a uniform.

Yes - this would fulfill the movie Aliens

Ripley - I can drive that loader. I've got a Class Two rating. My latest career move.
-After getting into the exosuit loader and picking up a box
Ripley - Where do you want it
Apone - Cargo Bay 3. Please

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