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Ford, Ekso collaborates for ‘bionic’ auto workers

Robots have replaced numerous U.S. production workers, but new mechanical exoskeletons being evaluated by Ford Motor might help factory workers to operate like bionic individuals, decreasing the physical damage of millions of recurring tasks over several years.

The United States automaker stated on Thursday that workers at two U.S. factories are evaluating upper-body exoskeletons developed by Richmond, California-based Ekso Bionics Holdings, which are developed to lower injuries and boost productivity.

The four EksoVests were paid for by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which represents hourly employees at Ford, and the automaker prepares tests for the exoskeleton in other regions consisting of Europe and South America. The expense of the exoskeletons, which were established as part of a collaboration between Ford and Ekso, was not revealed.

Two employees at each of the company’s Wayne and Flat Rock factories have been evaluating the exoskeletons since May.

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.

If you attempt one on, if seems like an empty backpack, but it allows you to hold a weight such as a heavy wrench straight out in front of you forever and without stress.

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

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