With the new Terminator movie in theaters this November, it seemed appropriate to delve into how the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow may be reminiscent of the original Terminator movie.
No, they won’t be transported back in time for some nefarious reason.
However, it may become commonplace for workers to wear a metal and composite exoskeleton designed to increase strength, stamina and prevent injury, without restricting the operator’s movement.
Yes, you read that correctly. An exoskeleton that workers can put on or step into that will assist them in their daily work. Arnold Schwarzenegger, eat your heart out.
Several companies already have working models on the market and are making new models that allow for greater flexibility. The current target markets are construction, manufacturing and distribution centers. The exoskeletons assist workers with their daily performance, particularly in jobs where repetitive motion that leads to injury, is commonplace.
In other applications, they are used to help improve employee stamina and strength.
This is not a new concept. The exoskeleton has been around for a while, albeit, in a more rudimentary form. Leg braces are exoskeletons and have been widely used since the early 1900s to assist individuals with walking impairments.
President Theodore Roosevelt, our 32nd president, is among the most famous. Polio left him unable to stand or walk and the leg braces provided the assistance he needed.
Through the years, scientists and inventors have studied and created ways to improve the early models.
If you’ve ever had knee surgery, you’ve most likely worn an exoskeleton, otherwise known as a knee brace. Low tech compared to now, but effective for its purpose.
Fast forward to today. Science and engineering have collided on an inevitable course to build exoskeletons that can do more than provide support.
Many of these improvements have been driven by the medical industry and the need for advances that take the next step in helping patients that have diminished or lost function in their extremities.
" It may become commonplace for workers to wear a metal and composite exoskeleton designed to increase strength, stamina and prevent injury, without restricting the operator’s movement. “
These powered exoskeletons are a wearable, mobile machine that is powered by a system of electric motors, pneumatics, levers, hydraulics, or a combination of technologies that allow for limb movement with increased strength and endurance. They go beyond providing support and actively assist the person wearing them.
It was only a matter of time that the technological advancements created opportunities for the use of exoskeletons for general applications within certain industries.
Although it’s not commonplace, some industries are beginning to use the technology with its workforce.
Although the concept has been around for a long time, technology has truly progressed to a point where we may soon see more and more businesses incorporate them into the workforce.
It may take a bit of getting used too, but then again, who wouldn’t want to be Iron Man
Mike Kilgore is vice president of marketing and sales with Wisconsin Plastics.