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Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems Join Collaboration for Exoskeleton Design

The apparatus helps reduce muscle fatigue for workers who handle heavy machinery on a daily basis.

A collaboration between the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems is testing and developing exoskeletons at U.S. Navy Shipyards in Washington state and Virginia. The goal is help reduce worker fatigue while workers remove sound abatement from hulls of Navy submarines.

Since some of the cutting and grinding tools can weigh as much as 36 pounds, using them for extended periods of time can cause muscle and joint strain, increase risk of injury and decrease productivity.

An exoskeleton allows for weight to be transferred from the worker’s body to the ground. This redistribution of weight can make a heavy tool essentially weightless.

Lockheed has created the Mantis prototype, which moves with the worker’s body as they stand, kneel and walk. Tests conducted with the prototype exoskeleton have already shown a 300% reduction in muscle fatigue and productivity gains of 2 to 27 times, a press release states.

While Lockheed is creating an unpowered system, BAE is making its Orthotic Load Assistance Device (OLAD) with Li-ion rechargeable batteries. It is also equipped with a zeroG robotic arm.

“We are pleased that once again a technology advanced through our program will be put into commercialization. The exoskeleton contract is just another example of how collaboration around research and development speeds the time to market for these important innovations. These advancements in exoskeleton technology are not only supporting the warfighter, but also the men and women carrying heavy backpack weight and equipment in combat,” said Rick Jarman, president and CEO at NCMS.

For more information, visit NCMS.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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