Technology in the manufacturing industry is less about replacing the workforce and more about enhancing them. People are still the heart of every manufacturing operation and without them, today’s advanced manufacturing industry would not be possible. We’ve seen technology like collaborative robots and impressive manufacturing software where the main goal is to improve the lives of the employees on the shop floor. Now, Panasonic is taking this one step farther, a robotic step that is.
Panasonic has released their demonstration video on their new exoskeletons aimed at reducing the strain on employees bodies that work in industrial fields. From loggers to the warehouse, these exoskeletons will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the manufacturing industry and more importantly the employees themselves.
They have released a number of different exoskeletons, each with their own applications and varying strengths. From the nimble AWN-03 to the behemoth Power Loader, they are all impressive feats of modern engineering, design and technology.
The AWN-03 is a specialized apparatus that focuses on supporting the complex movement of the lower back. It helps to alleviate the strain put on the lower back when lifting and holding heavy objects. It is easy to use and takes little time to put on. It works by using a series of straps, motors and sensors to help the user put less pressure on their lower back when lifting from a standing or squatting position. The device senses when the user is lifting an object and then activates the motors located on the hips and the weight is transferred from the back to the pads on the upper thigh. With an 8 hour battery life, it can help your employees work their best throughout an entire workday. Lower back injuries are very common in industries where employees are constantly lifting, moving and sorting heavy industrial components and products. Directing the weight to the pads on the upper thigh can reduce fatigue and greatly mitigate the change of an employee’s suffering a devastating lower back injury.
When it comes to construction, disaster relief, or public works projects, Panasonic showcased their most robust exoskeleton, the Power Lifter. The Power Lifter most notably resembles the exoskeleton that made an appearance in the popular Science-fiction film, Alien. It is controlled by 20 motors using four sensors on the feet and hands. It emulates the wearers movements and exponentially increases their strength. Imagine the possibilities of a construction worker holding and passing along steel beams with ease, or even moving equipment by “hand” around the shop floor. The applications are limitless for a number of different industries and manufacturers are excited.
The PLN-01 or known to Panasonic as the “Ninja” offers a slim design and spectacular maneuverability. As of now, the model is focused on the lower body to assist with walking over uneven or steep terrain. They are currently developing an upper body section to help with heavy lifting while maintaining the mobility of the wearer.
These incredible pieces of technology have incredible potential for not only the manufacturing industry but each industry throughout the supply chain. Loading docks, raw materials, packaging, the possibilities are endless and could dramatically increase the speed in which end-use products hit the market. You can find out more about Panasonic’s line of exoskeletons in the video below.