General Motors is looking to integrate new exoskeleton technology into its manufacturing processes in an effort to reduce workplace injuries and increase worker efficiency.
The automaker has identified two separate yet similar technologies for potential use in its production and manufacturing facilities: the SuitX Modular Agile eXoskeleton (MAX) and the Bioservo Ironhand glove.
The SuitX MAX system consists if four separate units for the shoulders, back and each of the legs. GM says the exoskeleton “uses springs and clutches that work in parallel with human joints to provide extra strength while reducing the muscle activity needed for heavy-lifting tasks by as much as 60 percent,” and can reduce worker fatigue and injuries, particularly to the back, knees and shoulders.
“Wearing a full suitX array won’t let you dead-lift a car, but picking up a 50-pound bag of concrete will be much easier, especially if you’re moving bag after bag from a pallet,” GM claims. “The system delivers extra capabilities when working overhead, such as on scaffolding, or when constant bending and lifting is required.”
The Bioservo Ironhand, meanwhile, is a strength-enhancing glove with battery-powered actuators that gives the wearer significantly increased strength. The thin glove also ensures the user has full dexterity, allowing them to use the glove to perform more meticulous tasks. GM tests found the Ironhand reliably increases hand strength by about 15-20 pounds and even by up to 50 pounds in short bursts.
GM says workers could also combine the SuitX MAX system with the Bioservo Ironhand for a more complete strength-enhancing exoskeleton.
The Bioservo Ironhand was actually developed as part of a GM initiative to use robotic hand technology it developed for a NASA robot and parlay that technology into a soft, wearable, strength-enhancing glove. Bioservo, a Swedish medical tech company, also contributed its innovative Soft Extra Muscle technology to the project and later began marketing the tech under the brand name Ironhand.
Check out the demonstration videos embedded below for a better of idea how exoskeleton technology, which workers may be using such technology to build Chevy vehicles in the not-too-distant future, can improve worker efficiency and help prevent injuries.