The South Korean robotics company, Hankook Mirae Technology, has designed a new class of robotic systems. Their towering manned robot walks like a human, stands at 13-feet tall and weighs 3,000 pounds. The Method-2 is currently housed in an engineering facility on the outskirts of Seoul but has big plans for the future.
The manufacturing industry has seen headlines referring to the usefulness of exoskeleton systems, however none have been as substantial as the Method-2. This piloted exoskeleton is less of a suit and instead resembles a vehicle of some sorts. Offering the person in the cockpit the ability to lift extreme weights and navigate throughout a facility, industrial or even hazardous environments. The Method-2 has a lot of potential for manufacturers of all kinds.
“Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected),” company chairman Yang Jin-Ho said. (bit.ly/2irhYKd) Yang has invested $200.28 million into the project since 2014. This was an immense challenge for engineers as they had no rule book or reference because it was truly a world first. Now that these engineers have a working model, they can refer to the Method-2 to manufacture models for specific uses and scale the design up or down depending on the intended function.
The Method-2 is still taking small steps toward being completely ready for the real-world. It is still having some issues with balance and power distribution which Yang says will be hammered out over the next couple of years. Yang also made an ambitious statement saying the machine will be ready for sale at the end of 2017. He said the robot will cost around $8.28 million but the 2017 sales mark seems a bit overly ambitious. The robot still needs to be tethered when it walks and paying over $8 million for a robot that can only take baby steps seems a bit steep.
“The robot is one year old so it is taking baby steps, – Just like humans, it will be able to move more freely in the next couple of years.” Yang stated. (bit.ly/2irhYKd) It isn’t clear whether or not the 2017 sales mark would be for pre-orders or full fledged Method-2’s ready for work.
The Method-2 along with other, smaller scale exoskeletons offer so much potential in the industrial manufacturing environment. Especially with the Method-2, material handling can be taken to the next extreme. Manufacturers may be able to hang up the forklift and trade up for a gigantic, bipedal robot with arms and controlled by a human. These machines will be able to more accurately manipulate objects such as rolled rings or ingots and move them freely around a facility. They may even be able to pick up entire machine tools and move them around, creating a easier way to restructure a shop floor.
New innovations in robotic science help drive the manufacturing industry forward. When it comes to machines like the Method-2, technology and humans working together offer an even more exciting boost to the industry. Exoskeletons bring with it the advantage of human ability and robotic strength. Rather than replacing the human workforce, exoskeletons give people the strength of a machine and that may be an unstoppable combination.
To learn more about exoskeleton technology which has already or is close to making its way into the manufacturing industry, check the resources below: