Hyundai develops wearable exoskeleton

Hyundai has developed a Vest EXoskeleton (VEX) – a wearable robot created to assist industrial workers who spend long hours working in overhead environments.

The VEX has been designed to enhance productivity and reduce fatigue by imitating the movement of human joints to boost load support and mobility. Weighing 2,5 kg, the VEX is worn like a backpack. Users place their arms through shoulder straps, then fasten chest and waist buckles. The back section is adjustable in length by up to 18 cm to fit a variety of body sizes, while the degree of force assistance can be adjusted over six levels – up to as much as 5,5 kg/f.

“VEX gives workers greater load support, mobility and adaptability when operating in overhead environments.” says Dong Jin Hyun, head of robotics at Hyundai.

The newly developed vest is targeted at production-line workers whose jobs are primarily overhead, such as those bolting items to the undersides of vehicles, fitting brake tubes or attaching exhausts. Development of the VEX included a pilot programme in two Hyundai plants in the United States (US), where it was successful in boosting productivity.

The VEX is expected to go into commercial production in December and is projected to cost as much as 30-percent less than existing products. It will join another product developed by Hyundai’s robotics team – a lightweight, Chairless Exoskeleton (CEX), which has been designed to support workers in a sitting position.

The CEX’s waist, thigh and knee belts can be easily fitted and adjusted according to a user’s body size and height and can be set to three angles – 85°, 70° and 55°. By reducing the user’s back and lower body muscle activity by up to 40 percent, the CEX is said to reduce fatigue and improve efficiency.

In a statement, a Hyundai representative says development of the VEX and CEX demonstrates the Korean motor group’s commitment to the health and well-being of its workers and its ongoing exploration of advanced robotics.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, the wearable robotics industry is growing at about 14 percent annually. By 2021 around 630 000 commercial robots are predicted to be sold worldwide, with the greatest demand coming from the automotive sector. In 2017, 126 000 robots were supplied to the sector, representing about 33 percent of demand for commercial robots.

“Recognising the market trend, Hyundai is making active investments and strengthening its presence within the growing robotics industry by securing relevant technologies,” the statement says.

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