Robots have been growing more collaborative, more energy efficient, safer, and more responsive to their surroundings over the years. These changes have led to far greater flexibility in work situations. Robots are coming out of their cages and serving as coworkers in many factories.
There’s another step that may be coming up sooner than expected. Robots may collaborate with humans not only in the next workspace on the factory floor, but much closer. The robot exoskeleton may be moving closer to practical use.
Consider the construction site exoskeleton created by Sarcos Robotics. When a worker puts on the Guardian XO Max — or steps into it, which may be a more accurate way to think of it — that worker can lift and manipulate materials weighing up to 200 lbs. Or LG’s SuitBot, an exoskeleton for the lower body that enhances human strength and makes it easier to do the work required in warehouses and factories. Or the Airframe systems that make tasks more ergonomic, providing greater comfort for awkward movements like working overhead or crouching for long periods.
Some companies, like BMW, are already using some of these devices to increase human productivity. However, the most common use is still therapeutic: helping paraplegics to walk, for example. With pricing in the $80,000 range, the exoskeletons are not flying off the shelves. Makers expect that the number of industrial users to increase, however, and the cost to fall as a consequence.
As the devices become more affordable, they may become a realistic alternative to industrial robots.
In the meantime, we offer all the support you need for Rexroth electric industrial motion control. Count on us for phone support, field support, factory repair and reman, and emergency replacement units for all Rexroth drive and control components, from legacy units to the newest drives, controls, motors, and power supplies.