Hyundai develops a wearable Vest EXoskeleton (VEX) that is up to 42% lighter than competing products to assist industrial workers who spend long hours working in overhead environments.
The wearable robot functions without the need for a battery by imitating the human shoulder joint and using a multilink lift assistant module.
The VEX was designed for production-line workers whose job is primarily overhead, such as those bolting the underside of vehicles, fitting brake tubes and attaching exhausts.
At 5.5 lbs. (2.5kg), VEX is worn in the same way as a backpack. The user places their arms through the shoulder straps of the vest, then fastens the chest and waist buckles. The back section can adjust in length by up to 7 ins. (18 cm) to fit a variety of body sizes. The degree of force assistance can be adjusted over six levels up to as much as 12.1 lbs. (5.5 kg).
“VEX gives workers greater load support, mobility and adaptability when operating in overhead environments,” Hyundai robotics team head DongJin Hyun says in a statement.
The technology’s development included a pilot program in two U.S. plants. Hyundai says the trial successfully assisted workers and boosted productivity and both plants incorporated VEX systems in their production lines. The automaker is considering implementing the VEX in plants around the world.
The robot is expected to go into commercial production in December by Hyundai Rotem and is projected to cost up to 30% less than existing products usually costing about $5,000.
Hyundai also plans to commercialize its chairless exoskeleton (CEX). The lightweight wearable device lets workers maintain a sitting position without a stool or chair. At 3.5 lbs. (1.6 kg), it is light yet highly durable and able to withstand weights of up to 330 lbs. (150 kg).
The CEX’s waist, thigh and knee belts can be adjusted to the user’s body size and height. It also features three different angle settings.
“By reducing the user’s back and lower-body muscle activity by 40%, it reduces fatigue and improves efficiency,” Hyundai says in a statement.
The International Federation of Robotics says the wearable robotics industry is growing 14% annually, a rate which is accelerating.