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Ford introduces ‘exosuits’ into 15 factories

Following a series of successful trials, Ford is introducing of mechanical “exosuits” for 75 workers located at 15 of its factories worldwide. The new semi-robotic devices are called EksoVests. These are designed to wrap around the upper part of the body and assist workers when they are lifting or reaching for an object overhead.

The new suit is a type of powered exoskeleton. This is 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.

Reducing work place injuries linked to physical strain is an important consideration for companies, in terms of protecting workers and reducing lost-time accidents. For instance, the U.S. spends $21 billion per year on workplace-related injuries. Moreover, construction workers are five-times more likely to report poor health; and typically, 20 percent of construction workers report severe pain during the course of their careers.

The new suits were tested out first at two Ford assembly plants in the U.S. Following this success, the suits are to be rolled out in other parts of the U.S., plus Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Romania, China and Thailand.

Speaking with the BBC, Nick Gotts, an EksoVest user who works at Ford’s Flat Rock plant in Michigan, said: “I don’t want the EksoVest to ever leave. Any job that’s overhead, I wouldn’t work without it.”

The EksoVests have been designed to reduce the types of injuries associated with repetitive motion. The suits are manufactured by the technology form Ekso Bionics. The new suits are designed for personnel who are between five feet two inches and six feet four inches tall (1.57 meters to 1.93 meters). The mechanical strength is such that it provides lift assistance for loads of between five and 15 pounds per arm (2.3 to 6.8 Kilograms).

As The Daily Telegraph reports, Ford indicates that some of its factory workers have to lift the equivalent of a bag of flour above their heads around 4,600 times a day. The new suits go some way towards addressing this.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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