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Lockheed Martin's Superhuman Workers Of Tomorrow

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 2:40pm
Jon Minnick, Associate Editor, Manufacturing Business Technology

In the latest news of life imitating art, it seems that an exoskeleton suit similar to ones used in Tom Cruise’s summer movie Edge of Tomorrow may be here today.

A press release from Lockheed Martin indicates that the U.S. Navy will begin testing and evaluating two FORTIS industrial exoskeletons. The FORTIS exoskeleton is an unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton that increases an operator’s strength and endurance by transferring the weight of heavy loads from the user’s body directly to the ground. This allows operators to carry objects weighing up to 36 lb as if they were weightless. With its Equipois ZeroG arm, the FORTIS can reduce fatigue by 300 percent and improve productivity by 200 to 2,700 percent.

“Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters,” said Adam Miller, director of new initiatives at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Those tools take a toll on operators due to the tools’ weight and the tight areas where they are sometimes used. By wearing the FORTIS exoskeleton, operators can hold the weight of those heavy tools for extended periods of time with reduced fatigue.”

According to Gizmag, the U.S. armed forces have been looking into the possibilities of exoskeletons for years as government-backed development projects, such as Lockheed’s HULC and Raytheon’s XOS 2. But where the Army has concentrated on powered skeletons to help soldiers carry heavier loads over rough terrain, the Navy is interested in a day-to-day exoskeleton that sailors can use routinely.

While the Navy is looking at the suits for ship building and maintenance, it’s easy to see how suits of this nature could be used in the wider manufacturing sector. By combining humans and technology together, companies can have the brainpower of employees with an increased output. If the suits are priced low enough, it has the potential to make companies reevaluate automating parts of their production, in turn saving some jobs.

What Do You Think?

Do these suits seem appealing for the manufacturing sector? What potential drawbacks could they have? How do you think workers would react to using an exoskeleton? Is this a sign of things to come? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

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