Exoskeleton Suits Promise Lower Fatigue, Higher Productivity for Construction Workers

 via suitX

via suitX

I’m a firm believer that before robots start taking over construction jobs, we’ll first be working with robotics to make workers more efficient and our job sites more functional.  Instead of using 3D printing robots to build an entire project, why not use them first to create intricate details and bring character back to buildings?  Instead of pushing human labor out of the way, why not use robotics to enhance the abilities of our workers, to improve their health and productivity? With rise in development commercial exoskeletons, workers will soon be able to harness additional strength by just slipping on a suit.

The back, shoulders, and knees are often the most vulnerable body parts of any construction worker.  That’s why suitX, a California-based robotics company, created the Modular Agile eXoskeleton, or MAX, for short.  Sold in three separate modules, the legX, backX, and shoulderX, wearers can target one specific area, or combine all three modules for a full body exoskeleton suit.

Simply put, the MAX system reduces force on the back, legs, and shoulders through load distribution, without the need for batteries, actuators, or computers.  Each module is also designed to allow for normal range of motion and to be compatible with other safety equipment, like harnesses and tool belts. 

The backX reduces spinal compression by an average of 60%, according to the company.  It comes in two different models, one that weighs 4.5 pounds and 7.1 pounds, which is surprisingly light for all of the benefits they claim it has.  The company also states that it only takes around 30 seconds to take the module off and put it on. The back module alone runs $3,000.

The legX is a little heftier of a unit, weighing 9.1 pounds, but the company claims that the “weight of the device is not borne by the user.”  Wearers can benefit from the reduction of knee fatigue and other forces, which will allow them to squat for extending periods of time.  A locking mechanism on the module allows it to be used as a chair, as well. The legX is the priciest of the 3 modules at $5,000.

The shoulderX is ideal for workers who perform a lot of work above the shoulder, like ceiling level tasks.  Weighing 10.6 pounds, the support the device gives only increases as the wearer’s arm is lifted, allowing them to perform overhead tasks with much less fatigue.  If only the shoulder is used, the load is distributed through the user’s hips, but if used in conjunction with the legX, the load is transferred to the ground. Each shoulderX module costs $3,000. 

Futurism put together a great video, which you can watch below, showing the MAX in use: