Industrial exoskeletons

Wearable devices that can support a construction worker in his movements and amplify his strength when lifting heavyweight items or tools on-site. Passive exoskeletons work by shifting pressure from e.g. arms and shoulders to the body core or legs.

Exoskeletons are wearable devices that can support a human in his/her movements. Construction workers can wear exoskeletons to amplify their strength and gain support in lifting heavyweight items or tools at the construction site. Exoskeletons can be either passive or active, depending on whether they use actuators, motors and batteries to relieve the user of a payload or bodyweight. The passive exoskeletons work by shifting pressure from e.g. arms and shoulders to the core or legs. In construction, the most popular exoskeletons are the less expensive passive systems.

Benefits and challenges

  • Improved safety due to fewer injuries
  • Less strain on workers, reduces fatigue and improves efficiency

Application examples

Ekso Bionics has developed an upper-body exoskeleton, called the EksoVest, which supports the user’s arms while working on tasks in chest height or overhead. The EksoVest is being tested on construction sites by the British construction company Willmot Dixon (www.constructionnews.co.uk).

The Hong Kong construction company Gammon is testing exoskeletons on construction sites. The Assist Suit exoskeletons weigh about 4 kg each and provide back support to the user, reducing strain by up to 10 kg (news.panasonic.com).

Development stage

Exoskeletons are available on the market, although they are mainly being used in other industries, such as manufacturing. Construction companies are expected to adopt exoskeletons in greater numbers in the coming years.

Construction impact

Exoskeletons will mainly affect work in the construction phase of a construction project.

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28 JANUARY 2022