Exoskeletons: an overview of the market
The consultory ABI Research confirms that the potential market of the exoskeletons for comercial and industrial use actually surpasses 2,6 millions of units in the world, with technologies that are able to endure the weight of the standing and crouching body being the most common. This figure contrasts with the total number of units of exoskeletons sold within the past few years.
As the research director of ABI Research, Dan Kara explains “the technology of the commercial and industrial exoskeletons acts as a bridge between the extremes in completely manual tasks and other applications that require traditional automation and robotic solutions.”
The exoskeletons, also known as power armor, exoframe or exosuit, are mobile machines that consist primarily of an external shell and fulfill a wide range of functions, determined by the purpose given to it. As an example, this type of technology is already in use in AUDI’s assembly line, reducing the employees’ fatigue with a carbon fiber exoskeleton. The objective of this exoskeleton is to improve the workers’ stance, which helps avoiding posible shoulder injury, normally caused by the heavy weights of the automobile parts in the assembly line. Besides aiding the operators, the usage of this technology in the industry pretends to improve workers’ safety and human productivity. Thanks to this, the exoskeleton technology has attracted big companies such as SIEMENS, LOWE’s or Ford, which are interested in the implementation in their own industry.
The technology has proved itself useful with solutions in markets such as the medical, altering and improving the general quality of life, and it would not be risky to affirm that with a pilot program, many of the workers who are currently unable to walk could think of the possibility.
American investigators have combined exoskeletons with a new spine stimulation technique that has allowed a handicapped man to walk since his injury in the spinal cord. The accelerated convergence between neuroscience, robotics and engineering is allowing to create and sell robotic systems that can accomplish the dreams of many handicapped and injured.
Some of the innovation is carried by Spanish companies, such as the promising Atlas 2000, created in collaboration with Marsi Bionics, a spin-off company from the CSIC (Superior Council of Scientific Research), and the engineering company Escribano. This device is tailored for the children body and consists of mechanic legs and spine. The parts adjust to the body of the patient and articulate it with motors that imitate the function of the human muscles, granting the affected by this neuromuscular pain the strengh to stand up and walk.
Other possibilities include the recovery of the sleeping neurons within the spinal cord. This new focus was attempted by a diverse group of researchers, ranging from neuroscientists to engineers, in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Thanks to the contribution of Ekso Bionics’ exoskeleton, researchers were able to design a system that stimulates the spine with electricity and gathers data from the neuronal response to command the robot.
Although the technology is yet expanding, the researchers affirm that different kinds of exoskeletons can be designed to cure other specific neuromuscular injuries.
At Global Robot Expo ’18 conferences we count with the participation of Guarav Genani, CEO @ Skel-Ex, Russ Angold, CEO @ Ekso Bionics and Homayoon Kazeroni, Founder @SuitX, a great opportunity to learn from their insights and to see a real-live demo of the exoskeletons.