Korean Factory Workers Don Exoskeletons for Superhuman Strength

By Carl Engelking | August 4, 2014 3:02 pm

Robotic exoskeletons allow shipyard workers to lift heavy loads with ease. (Courtesy: Daewoo)

At Daewoo’s South Korean shipyard, lifting and moving massive slabs of metal as if they’re made of foam could soon be a basic job requirement for workers. Of course, they’ll have some help: robotic exoskeletons, which made their debut last year at the company’s manufacturing facility, are on the rise.

After successfully testing the exoskeletons last year, the shipbuilding giant hopes to soon outfit some of their employees with the technology, giving them the superhuman strength to take production to new heights, New Scientist reports. The prototypes tested allowed workers to pick up 65-pound objects and manipulate them with ease, but Daewoo plans to increase the exoskeletons’ carrying capacity to roughly 220 pounds with design improvements.

Heavy Lift

The exoskeletons themselves weigh in at 60 pounds, but workers don’t feel the load because an aluminum alloy and steel frame supports its own weight. Workers simply lock their boots into the footpads of the suit, and fasten straps from the thighs to the chest.

Hydraulic joints and battery-powered motors give the workers Iron Man-like strength for lifting, but also allow them to walk normally. In addition to raw lifting ability, workers can also handle heavy objects precisely, since they feel much lighter.

The Age of Exoskeletons

After years of research into robotic exoskeletons, it seems 2014 is shaping up to be the year the technology enters the “real world.”  In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first robotic exoskeleton for paralyzed individuals. During the opening ceremony of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a teenage Brazilian paraplegic delivered the opening kick with a mind-controlled exoskeleton.

According to a 2014 Wintergreen Research report, the market for rehabilitative robotics — which includes exoskeletons — is expected to grow from its current $43.8 million to $1.8 billion by 2020.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: robots
  • August Pamplona

    I, for one, welcome our new, robotic exoskeleton wearing Korean shipyard worker overlords!

  • http://betacrumb.com/ BetaCrumb

    It seems like this would actually prolong production times because of all the time it would take to hook everything up. Maybe it would reduce injuries (and time spent with that), but it just seems overly complicated for everyday use.

    • jerhole

      You’ve never had to repeatedly lift anything heavy, have you…..

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    1) Ripley in Aliens, “Get away from her…”
    2) If his hands are toting the load with his boosted arms, he loses his hands.
    3) If that is a magnet grabbing the steel, he might consider wearing mu-metal safety panties.
    4) If only somebody would invent the overhead crane!

  • stevedodge833

    If a load of steel starts to topple, does the suit make the wearer flail his arms and shout “Danger, Will Robinson!”?

  • peter3dogs

    Why dont they just create armor for those exoskeletons & walk right into North Korea & pop that zit at the head???

    • SmilingAhab


  • kmtominey44

    I have seen these for people with paralysis or mobility issues – could be useful for MS or cerebral palsy issues for instance.

  • Steven Elliott

    Although I know better from experience, that piece of metal the worker is holding sure doesn’t look impressively heavy.

    • Mykeljon

      The picture illustrates the suit being used. The weight of the object in the picture is irrelevant. What matters is the reference to being able to lift and manipulate 60 pounds and perhaps over 200 pounds.

      • Steven Elliott

        Good job on totally missing my point, Mr. Intelligence!


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