Jul. 10, 2020
Exoskeleton structure is a relatively small robot market.
But with more and more companies joining in, the initial medical and military applications have been extended to daily application scenarios, such as increasing the productivity of employees, and even helping the elderly employees to extend their working hours.
Panasonic has made a light version of the exoskeleton scaffold so that ordinary workers can easily carry 15 kg of weight around. In the back, thighs, calves to feet area with carbon fiber material support, with the power motor that can be awakened by the sensor, you can easily help people load 15kg work.
"We hope that in the next 15 years, this exoskeleton structure, or mechanical coat, can be widely used in people's lives." In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Panasonic spokesperson Mio Yamanaka said that they expect the technology to have application space in industries with high labor intensity, such as express delivery, construction and logging.
Frankly speaking, Panasonic is not the most advanced of these technologies. From the appearance, the exoskeleton structure they designed may cause difficulty in action, not necessarily mature products. But they can sell the technology as soon as possible, and test the application space of the technology in the market.
Traditional car companies, while relying on the use of robotic arms to reduce manual operation, are also developing exoskeleton support equipment for workers. BMW in Germany has already worked with the University of Munich to give employees a customized glove with 3D printing, which can help thumb to complete repetitive production actions.
Audi AG and noonee, a well-known wearable equipment manufacturer, are testing a kind of mechanical protective device that can assist the waist movement during squatting, so as to reduce the possibility of waist injury for employees who need to squat frequently. It is more vividly known as "a chair that can sit anywhere, anytime".
This kind of exoskeleton structure has been used in medicine and military fields for a long time. As early as 1997, Cyberdyne company in Japan has applied a leg support structure to some hospitals in Japan to help those injured patients recover. The exoskeleton, called Hal (hybrid assistant limb), was also used in reconstruction and rescue work after the Fukushima tsunami in 2011. Because the whole set of anti radiation clothing weighs 60 kg, ordinary people can't wear such equipment to work for a long time, so the exoskeleton support structure becomes the necessary auxiliary.
In the past, the most attention should be paid to the "soft exoskeleton structure" that the US Department of Defense (DARPA) has invested $2.9 million and Harvard University Laboratory is trying to develop, or you can understand it as a close fitting sports tights.
Unlike other exoskeletons, which use metal and powerful mechanical motors, Wyss College's sports pants only play a basic supporting role. The purpose is for stroke patients or other people whose muscle strength is lower than that of normal people to walk and move more naturally. The supporting function is realized by special liquid materials, which can change the elastic force according to the bending degree.
In fact, the most controversial application scenario of exoskeleton structure is not in the medical field. Panasonic happened to step into the minefield, where human and robot boundaries have become increasingly blurred due to the existence of exoskeleton structure.
Daewoo, a South Korean shipbuilder with a strong shipbuilding industry, is using Panasonic designed upper limbs to support Kubota's exoskeleton. It allows the builder to lift 30-100kg. South Korea's shipbuilding industry has always been famous for its high degree of mechanization, which makes the remaining manual operation more like machine production.
Panasonic's new exoskeleton jacket, which will be released this time, was developed with its subsidiary, activelink. The company is also developing a stronger version, a complete exoskeleton like iron man, which is said to be able to achieve a 100 kg load.
At the time of last year's announcement, the price of the "stronger" exoskeleton was set at around $5000.
From one point of view, these machine structures enable human beings to adapt to more intense working environment, and from another point of view, human beings play the role of central control system of machines.