The secret to crustaceans and insects belonging to the phylum Arthropoda family are their exoskeleton. Ants, lobsters, hermit crabs, spiders, and beetles are all creatures whose life is made possibly by their exoskeleton body plan. Although humans do not have exoskeletons, but rather endoskeletons, it hasn’t stopped the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in pursing this technology.
Over the years, DARPA has invested millions into exoskeleton suits for ground troops. This wearable robotic system gives soldiers the ability to carry heavier objects, run faster, and even leap over large obstacles.
From the battlefield to North American manufacturing plants, Ford is now pilot testing upper body exoskeletal technology called EksoVest. This wearable technology alleviates stress and supports the Ford assembly line worker, who might have to do a task up to 4,600 times per day and up to a million times per year.
According to Ford, embracing the technology could decrease worker fatigue and produce overall better worker safety in facilities.
These are the approximate number of times some Ford assembly line workers lift their arms during overhead work tasks. At this rate, the possibility of fatigue or injury on the body increases significantly. But a new upper body exoskeletal tool – the result of a partnership between Ford and California-based Ekso Bionics – helps lessen the chance of injury.
Ekso Bionics® (EKSO) produces the EksoVest, Ford has adopted the non-powered version, designed to lift five pounds to 15 pounds per arm. The suit’s composition is lightweight carbon-fiber strapped to the back of an operator, as shown below…
Russ Angold, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ekso Bionics, said “collaboratively working with Ford enabled us to test and refine early prototypes of the EksoVest based on insights directly from their production line workers. The end result is a wearable tool that reduces the strain on a worker’s body, reducing the likelihood of injury, and helping them feel better at the end of the day – increasing both productivity and morale”.
So far, Ford is pilot testing EksoVests in two U.S. plants and in other regions….
With support from the United Automobile Workers and Ford, EksoVest is being piloted in two U.S. plants, with plans to test in other regions, including Europe and South America.
UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles said, “with the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities.”
Ford’s goal with the EksoVest is to improve workplace safety. Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice president, Manufacturing and Labor Affairs said,
Our goal has always been to keep the work environment safe and productive for the hardworking men and women we rely on across the globe.
Investing in the latest ergonomics research, assembly improvements and lift-assist technologies has helped us design efficient and safe assembly lines, while maintaining high vehicle quality for our customers.
Perhaps, there is another reason behind the adoption of the EksoVest.. We believe Ford recognizes the global demographic time-bomb that is about to explode on developed economies. As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes, there’s an economic headwind businesses, Central Banks, and global Governments will face: the percentage of the global population that is 65 or older will double from 10% to 20% by 2050. Ford is essentially taking the body of a prime working age male let’s say 35-48 strapping an exoskeleton on them and turning output as if they were 20-25.
As the population grows old, Ford is turning the bodies of an aged worker into a highly productive one. Ford recognizes the demographic shift that is about to wreak havoc across many developed world economies.
Bottom line: Has the demographic shift in western economies ushered in the start of a Skynet takeover through the adoption of wearable technology, as Ford is determined to strap employees with robotic suits?…