After testing endurance enhancing exoskeletons in two factories in the United States last year, Ford has decided to expand their use globally. Ford will deploy at least one suit in every factory in the United States, and factories located in South America, Europe, and Asia will also being receiving units. The suits, built by Ekso Bionics, offer passive arm support to help employees who spend a lot of their time reaching overhead. The higher the employee reaches up, the more support the mechanical device offers (from five to 15 pounds). The tests represent a stepping stone as Ford looks to set a system that can be grown as this technology matures.
Marty Smets, Ford's technical expert of human systems and virtual manufacturing, told Engadget "We wanted to focus on one exoskeleton initially, then expand from there as the space grows." The tests conducted by Ford will judge whether the utility of the technology make the financial investment worthwhile. A total of 75 EksoVests will be deployed in this second stage of testing. The goal of the tests is to prove that the suit increases productivity and reduces worker injury at the same time.
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