Ford's automotive assembly lines need workers to be constantly reaching overhead, and a whole day of doing so can really take a toll on their back, neck and shoulders. The motor company has recently partnered with California-based Ekso Bionics to trail an upper-body exoskeleton known as the EksoVest, which elevates and support the arms of the workers.
The unpowered vest can be fitted to workers from 5 feet to 6 feet 4 inches tall (152cm to 193cm), using springs to provide adjustable lift assistance of 2.2 to 6.8 kg per arm. The person wearing the Ford EksoVest are still able to move freely as the device relatively lightweight, tipping the scales at 4.3 kg.
"Collaboratively working with Ford enabled us to test and refine early prototypes of the EksoVest based on insights directly from their production line workers," says Russ Angold, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ekso Bionics. "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."
There are plans to test the technology in other regions such as Europe and South America, as it is currently being piloted at two US plants. In the meanwhile, you can see the EksoVest in the video below: