California-based startup suitX has introduced its Modular Agile eXoskeleton (MAX) that is designed to reduce body stress on workers who perform strenuous activities in various industrial settings.
suitX says MAX will support lifting, stooping, bending, squatting and overhead work to allow workers to be more productive by reducing fatigue and costly workplace injuries. suitX
MAX is actually made up of three exoskeletons called backX, shoulderX, and legX that can be worn independently or in any combination depending on the need.
suitX isn’t disclosing prices, however, each of the three pieces can be bought individually.
backX reduces the force and torque on a wearer’s lower back area. backX is adjustable to your body size and it doesn’t use batteries, actuators, or computers. suitX says it also integrates with standard safety harnesses and tool belts to maintain their functionality.
There are two versions of backX: the Model S that weighs 4.5 lb, is best used solo, and features a frame design that keeps the rear belt open and accessible when reaching for tools; the Model AC that weighs 7.1 lb, has a load-bearing frame that transfers the weight of attached loads directly to the hips, or to the ground if legX is attached.
legX reduces stress on the knee joints and quadriceps, allowing wearer’s to squat for long periods of time. legX can distinguish between walking, ascending/descending stairs and squatting, but it also has a locking mode that allows the exoskeleton to be used like a chair.
shoulderX reduces force on the wearer’s shoulders by transferring weight from the arms to the hips when worn alone or to the ground when worn in conjunction with legX. shoulderX weighs 10.6 lbs with one arm attached and 12.4 lbs with two arms attached. Like backX, shoulderX doesn’t use batteries, actuators, or computers.
“The MAX solution is designed for unstructured workplaces where no robot can work as efficiently as a human worker,” says Dr. Homayoon Kazerooni, founder and CEO, suitX. “Our goal is to augment and support workers who perform demanding and repetitive tasks in unstructured workplaces in order to prevent and reduce injuries.”
In the MAX announcement, suitX references a Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety report that found overexertion was the leading cause of disabling injuries in 2013, costing businesses $15.08 billion in direct costs.
“We have created responsive and affordable technologies to augment workers’ strength while leaving the worker in control of the operation,” says Kazerooni. “MAX is designed to support workers during the repetitive tasks that most frequently cause injury. It’s not only lifting 75 pounds that can hurt your back; it is also lifting 20 pounds repeatedly throughout the day that will lead to injury.”
suitX also makes Phoenix, a medical exoskeleton that weighs just 27 pounds. Phoenix is an “investigational device” at this stage, but it has a 4-hour battery life for continuous walking, an 8-hour battery life for intermittent use and a maximum walking speed of 1.1 MPH.