A robotic ‘Ironhand’ could protect factory workers from injuries

13th August, 2021.      //   General Interest  // 

87524741d47c2ebc_800x800ar

Working in a factory or warehouse might include performing the same activity repeatedly, which can lead to chronic damage. A battery-powered glove may now be able to assist employees by alleviating some of the pressure.

The “Ironhand” glove enhances the wearer’s grip, allowing them to do repeated manual activities with less power. Bioservo, the company that created it, claims that it may enhance the wearer’s hand strength by 20%.
The technology is referred described as a “soft exoskeleton” by the Swedish firm. Exoskeletons are a type of exoskeleton that supports and protects the body while also improving strength and endurance. The Ironhand, on the other hand, has a soft, glove-like construction.

Reducing Fatigue 

“When you have the glove on, it provides strength and reduces the effort needed when lifting objects,” Bioservo’s marketing director, Mikael Wester, agrees.  “It’s all in order to reduce fatigue and prevent strain injuries in the long run.”

The technology comprises of a backpack that holds the power pack as well as artificial tendons that link the glove to the backpack. When a user grips an object, the motor is activated by sensors on each fingertip. The grip strength and sensitivity may be adjusted via a remote control or an app.

According to Wester, applications include automobile assembly on the manufacturing line, construction tool use, and carrying large things in warehouses.

Each Ironhand system is around €6,000 ($7,275). The gadget also captures information that allows the firm to determine the wearer’s risk of strain injuries.

Work-related neck and upper limb diseases are the most prevalent occupational illness in Europe, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, costing national economies up to 2% of their gross national product.

From NASA to General Motors

The glove was designed for employees in a very different environment than the production floor. NASA created an early version of the device, known as “Robo-Glove,” to aid astronauts in grasping items and doing tasks in space.

In 2016, Bioservo licensed the design and worked with General Motors (GM) to create the glove for its employees.

“Ergonomics is really the field of trying to fit the jobs to the workers, instead of the workers having to conform and adapt to the job,” according to Stephen Krajcarski, GM’s ergonomics team’s senior manager.
“By using tools such as the Ironhand we are really trying to mitigate any potential concerns or physical demands that may eventually cause a medical concern for that individual operator.”
GM has assisted Bioservo in testing and improving the Ironhand by flying it in a range of jobs at its manufacturing plants, according to Krajcarski. He claims that some employees have found it simple to use, but cautions that it is not appropriate for all scenarios.
GM is exploring at a variety of exoskeletons, including the Ironhand. The exoskeleton market will rise from $392 million in 2020 to $6.8 billion in 2030, according to market research firm ABI Research.
“If you look at exoskeletons, this is just one of the tools that are out there,” Krajcarski said. “But this is an exciting technology.”