New Zealand Logger - - News -

Tech­nol­ogy is help­ing sawmills and wood prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ers im­prove their op­er­a­tions and some of the lat­est ideas were dis­cuss at last month’s WoodTECH 2018 con­fer­ence in Ro­torua.

HARD, PHYS­I­CAL WORK AROUND sawmills and wood pro­cess­ing sites could be made much eas­ier through the use of an ‘ex­oskele­ton’ fit­ted out­side the body.

These de­vices are noth­ing like those seen in Hol­ly­wood movies such as Alien and Avatar – rather than turn­ing the wearer into a su­per-strong hu­man, they make tough tasks eas­ier on our joints, their US-based de­vel­oper told last month’s WoodTECH 2018 con­fer­ence in Ro­torua.

Dr Ho­may­oon Kaeroo­nia, co-founder and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of SuitX, and his team in Cal­i­for­nia, have de­vel­oped a range of in­dus­trial ‘ex­oskele­tons’ that take the hard work out of lift­ing, mov­ing or un­der­tak­ing repet­i­tive tasks. Their aim is to re­duce worker fa­tigue and as­sist with phys­i­cally de­mand­ing roles.

SuitX, which was spun out of a re­search unit at Berkley Univer­sity in San Fran­cisco, has de­vel­oped what it calls a Mod­u­lar Ag­ile eX­oskele­ton (MAX) that can be con­fig­ured to as­sist the body for a wide range of in­dus­trial tasks. MAX’s ver­sa­til­ity is cre­ated from a num­ber of mod­ules that can be com­bined or used in­de­pen­dently.

It has al­ready re­leased three mod­ules onto the mar­ket so far; a back-sup­port model, a knee-sup­port model and an arm­sup­port model. More mod­ules are in the pipeline to sup­port the neck, an­kles and wrists.

Each mod­ule con­sists of small torque gen­er­a­tors that work with your body to push you up so your back, knee or arm mus­cles aren’t lift­ing as hard.

Dr Kaeroo­nia told del­e­gates at the con­fer­ence that around 500 of these mod­ules are now be­ing used in work­places around the world, from car plants, to ware­houses and con­struc­tion sites. In one ap­pli­ca­tion the wearer was able to com­plete a task in one morn­ing that would nor­mally have taken a cou­ple of days.

More im­por­tantly, wear­ers are likely to take fewer days off through stress or in­jury-re­lated is­sues, and will en­joy their jobs more.

When asked the price, he told the con­fer­ence that a sin­gle mod­ule sells for around US$4,000 and could be supplied to pur­chasers in New Zealand. At least one mill op­er­a­tor says they could see uses for the ‘ex­oskele­ton’ from a health & safety point of view in their plant.


A SuitX ex­oskele­ton back mod­ule helps make light work of lift­ing these wooden pal­lets.

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