Designed to help lower worker fatigue, this tech is now ready for global deployment.
While some manufacturers are trying to replace their human production line workforce with robots, Ford has decided to turn its employees into Exoskeleton wearing superhumans. To ease the physically arduous task of building vehicles on a production line, the EksoVest, a wearable upper body exoskeleton has been rolled out across 15 plants globally. Ford partnered with Ekso Bionics to develop this tech to supports a worker's arms while performing overhead tasks such as reaching up with a power tool to work on the underside of a vehicle. "Building vehicles is physically a tough job," said Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice president, Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. "We care about our employees and are trying to help them do their jobs with the least amount of wear and tear on their bodies possible."
The technology was trialed at Ford's Flat Rock Michigan assembly plant over the past year and employees who used it were very impressed with how it worked. It can be configured to fit people ranging from 5 feet 2 inches up to 6 feet 4 inches in height. It can provide up to 15 pounds of lift assistance per arm and its light-weight design makes it comfortable to wear for longer periods. The robotic assistance should help keep the assembly process flowing smoothly so that those new Mustangs and F-150s don't get delayed on their way to dealer lots.
While it was primarily designed to help reduce the risk of injury from repetitive motions we can't help but think that with a little modification the EksoVest could easily be adapted by Skynet in their plan for global domination. In the meantime, Jack Peurach, President and CEO at Ekso Bionics says that their mission to augment human capability with wearable technology is getting a major step forward as their partnership with Ford sees their EksoVest deployed around the world.