Sarcos Robotics recently announced technology advancements to its Guardian XO Max full-body, all-electric, battery-powered industrial exoskeleton robotic system that is capable of allowing a human operator to safely lift and manipulate up to 200 pounds, the company said.
A single charge lasts for up to eight hours and battery modules can be “hot swapped” in the field without losing power in the process. It requires only 400 watts of power while walking at human speed — a 90% decrease from the power typically required for humanoid robots. Initial testing showed a strength amplification of 20 to 1, which means that 100 pounds feels like only five pounds for the suit’s user. The suit’s entire weight and that of the payload is all transferred through the suit’s structure to the ground, offloading all of those weights from the user.
A suite of sensors integrated into the exoskeleton eliminate the need to place sensors on the human body. The control system can respond to human movement within milliseconds so that the user can control the robot in a way that best maximizes his or her instincts and reflexes, as well as reducing the need for training.
With occupational back injuries costing U.S. employers in excess of $100 billion each year, exoskeleton suits and other such wearable technologies can help lessen physical burdens.
Although they have yet to make significant inroads in the industry — a Dodge Data & Analytics SmartMarket report last December found only 13% of firms use wearables — the contractors that adopt wearables by and large find them to be worth the investment. The same study found that of the 13% using the technology, 82% of those firms said wearables have had a positive impact on safety in the field.
Consigli Construction, outside of Boston, is one firm employing exoskeleton suits. Jack Moran, BIM services manager at Consigli, told Construction Dive that his firm recently purchased exoskeleton suits. Those suits will take weight off workers in the field, he said, which will increase their safety and enable them to do a better job because they will experience less muscle fatigue.
“Advanced construction technology,” which wearables fall under, according to the fourth-quarter Commercial Construction Index survey in December by USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are used by more than half of contractors. That same survey also showed that 78% of contractors believe technology like robotics, automated equipment RFID tagging, and especially wearables, will help improve safety.
Guardian XO Max should be released commercially later this year and begin shipping in early 2020. It will be offered exclusively through a fee-based robotics-as-a-service model, according to the company.