Forget robots, Ford looks to create 'bionic' auto workers

Forget robots, Ford looks to create 'bionic' auto workers”

Robots have replaced many US manufacturing workers, but new mechanical exoskeletons being tested by Ford Motor Co may help factory workers to function like bionic people, reducing the physical damage of millions of repetitive tasks over many years. The cost of the exoskeletons, which were developed as part of a partnership between Ford and Ekso, was undisclosed.

While this isn't the first exoskeleton created to assist the human worker, the EksoVest demonstrates how such tools can prevent injury due to fatigue and provide physically disabled individuals the opportunity to regain lost abilities.

The lightweight vest supports employees while they perform overhead tasks, providing lift support of approximately 15 pounds (6.8 kg) per arm through a mechanical actuator that uses torque to take the stress off an employee's shoulders. Already, exoskeletons are being used to help paraplegics walk, and applications for these technologies are even being expanded to provide support and enhancement for soldiers.

While this might not seem like a huge amount, Ford claims that certain employees do as many as 4,600 tasks a day, so you can imagine that it all adds up, and having the suit there to help will certainly make things easier as well as reduce chances of injury. This leaves workers with more energy after work, and increases morale and productivity over time.

Ford employees lift their arms frequently, leaving them tired and at risk of injuries.

The EksoVest is sort of like a backpack with arm supports that the worker can strap onto themselves in probably around a minute. After it released a prototype for the sleek Max Motor Dreams smart crib in April, it's now utilizing bionic technology to help factory employees work safer. Between the years 2005 and 2016, an 83% decrease in injuries and work restrictions was reported, which is a rate of 1.55 incidents per 100 full time employees.

Ekso started by developing exoskeletons for the military and medical fields, however branched out in manufacturing and construction in 2013.

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