MOTOR1: Ford Merges Man And Machine With New Assembly Line Exoskeletons
Robots will augment our future.
Before our future is taken over by robots, we will mesh man with machine to aid in an assortment of tasks. Ford is diving headfirst into this space by using an exoskeleton that assists its assembly line workers in hopes of reducing the toll of repetitive motions, such as fatigue or injury. The Dearborn automaker piloted the wearable technology, called the EksoVest, over the last year at its Michigan Assembly Plant and Flat Rock Assembly Plant. Feedback during the trial helped refine the technology before it rolled out globally.
Ford partnered with Ekso Bionics on the technology, which helps elevate and support a worker’s arms during tasks such as using power tools when assembling the vehicle overhead. The system can provide lift assistance from five to 15 pounds per arm. The EksoVest fits workers ranging from 5 feet 2 inches tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall. It’s lightweight and isn’t bulky, according to workers who’ve used the vest.
“I don’t want the EksoVest to ever leave,” said Nick Gotts, an original EksoVest operator at Flat Rock Assembly, “Any job that’s overhead, I wouldn’t work without it.”
Ford is rolling out the technology to 15 plants in seven countries around the world. Currently, every North American Ford factory has EksoVests. Plants in the Asia Pacific, Europe, and South America also have access to the exoskeleton.
Expect more technology like this moving forward. It is unlikely robots will take every job out there; however, man and machine could merge to more efficiently complete a task or to reduce injuries and stress. We’re not at full Iron Man, yet; however, this is one step closer.
Article By: ANTHONY ALANIZ,