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Ford equips assembly line workers with exoskeleton vests in new pilot program

Ford equips assembly line workers with exoskeleton vests in new pilot program

Ford is testing a new exoskeleton created to make physical tasks easier for the human half of the man-machine combination.

The EksoVest is attached to a worker's upper body and is "designed specifically to help with overhead tasks", says Digital Trends, with the lightweight construction supporting the wearer's arms and back.

The four EksoVests were paid for by the United Auto Workers union, which represents hourly workers at Ford, and the automaker plans tests for the exoskeleton in other regions including Europe and South America. The device, which weighs 9.5 pounds straps onto the shoulders and arms of a worker and uses unpowered springs to give them a little super strength.

According to Ford, an average assembly line worker lifts their arms around a million times a year, leaving many of their employees at risk for injury.

In addition to the EksoVest, Exso Bionics has also developed a full-body powered exoskeleton for patients recovering from spinal cord injuries and strokes.

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There are now only four exoskeletons in use, according to Reuters, all paid for by the United Auto Workers.

Ford partnered with tech firm Ekso Bionics to create the suit, which "could help prevent workplace accidents resulting from exhausted muscles and minds", Engadget reports.

These "EksoVests" are also being tested in other regions located in Europe and South America, but US testing has been going on since May at Ford's Wayne and Flat Rock factories.

Since 2013, Ekso began developing, constructing, and manufacturing exoskeletons for the military and medical fields.

"Collaboratively working with Ford enabled us to test and refine early prototypes of the EksoVest based on insights directly from their production line workers", Russ Angold, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ekso Bionics, added. "With the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities".


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