Ford thinks exoskeletons are ready for prime time in its factories

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People still build cars. While videos of giant robots welding vehicles are exciting to watch (sparks!), humans are an important part of the assembly of vehicles. However, as you would expect, doing the same thing over and over often leads to injuries. For workers reaching up all day, that motion can be especially hard on their shoulders. To help, Ford will be offering exoskeleton vests to folks in 15 assembly plants around the world.

The EksoVests (built by Ekso Bionics) are available for employees that have to reach overhead multiple times a day. The exoskeleton vest doesn’t have a motor or battery pack to make its wearer stronger. Instead, it’s a mechanical device that offers passive arm support from five to 15 pounds.

As the person reaches up, the vest offers their arms additional assistance. The higher they reach, the more support the system adds. “It’s not a strength enhancer, it’s an endurance enhancer,” Marty Smets, Ford’s technical expert of human systems and virtual manufacturing, told Engadget.

Ford has been testing the vest at two plants in the Dearborn, Michigan area for the past 16 months. Smets said that thanks to the success of that trial — where employees used the vest during 86 percent of their shift — the automaker is expanding the use of the vests to 15 assembly plants around the world.



FiveWordsForTheFuture - Sep 20, 2018 | Automotive, Biomechatronics, Robotics, Transportation
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