The Hyundai plant in Montgomery played a crucial role in the development of a wearable robot exoskeleton. In turn, the factory’s employees will get an opportunity to try the commercial version of the robot before anyone else.
Last week, Hyundai Motor Group revealed its plans to start the production of VEX (Vest EXoskeleton) and CEX (Chairless EXoskeleton) at the Hyundai Rotem factory. The idea behind such an invention is to assist those employees whose job takes place in overhead environments.
VEX is practical and lightweight, mimicking the natural movement of a person’s joints. The robotic vest allows increased mobility and additional load support. The new technology does not require any batteries for the added muscular assistance.
As one of the participants in the prototype trials, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in Alabama (HMMA) has offered important feedback during the development of the latest technology. The factory expects to receive the first commercial robots by the end of 2019. HMMA is aiming to start incorporating them as soon as it is possible.
Hyundai’s exoskeletons are not the only ones available on the market. However, the company believes their products are currently the best version out there.
According to Hyundai’s officials, the wearable robots are 22– 42% lighter than any other, weighing 5.5 pounds. They are also more comfortable since the workers are meant to wear them as vests. Additionally, Hyundai’s technology is adjustable (as many as seven inches in extra length and more than 12 pounds in added assistance).
The company also claims that it is the most affordable option on the market. The currently expected price puts the new exoskeletons at 30% less than the typical value of such products.
Dong Jin Hyun, Robotics team leader at Hyundai Motor Group, has explained why their new invention is so valuable to the employees. According to Hyun, workers will receive more significant load support, adaptability, and mobility, all thanks to the new VEX.
Those working in an overhead environment will especially benefit from such technology. Hyun said that such workers would surely appreciate how easy it was to wear and work with VEX.
Hyundai has decided to specifically target the new inventions to production-line employees whose work takes place overhead. When it comes to auto assembly, these workers might be adjusting brake tubes, bolting a vehicle’s underside, or fitting exhausts.
The company has reported that the initial program testing of the wearable technology at HMMA and Georgia’s Kia factory has shown excellent results. According to Hyundai, VEX was hugely successful in improving workers’ productivity and providing them assistance.
Presently, Rotem is looking to start the exoskeleton production in December with the Montgomery factory being one of the first users. The ultimate goal is to implement VEX worldwide.
As previously mentioned, Hyundai plans to produce another wearable robot, CEX. Such technology would help workers keep a sitting position with no chairs or similar objects. CEX should weigh about 3.5 pounds and allow a 330-pound person to use it.
The robot comes with an adjustable waist, thigh, and knee belts that can be fitted to suit all heights. CEX also offers a few different angle settings (55 degrees, 70 degrees, or 85 degrees). The technology should reduce the body’s back muscle activity by 40%, thus decreasing workers’ fatigue and increasing their productivity.
Hyundai does not intend to stop their innovation efforts there. The company has revealed that their upcoming plans include service robots for the sales industry, hotels, and many other robotic solutions regarding personal mobility.
What Does the Future Hold for Wearable Robot Technology?
Every year, the robotics industry keeps growing. According to the International Federation of Robotics, there was an increase of 14% compared to the previous year. Based on their reports, 630,000 commercial robots will be sold by 2021.
The greatest demand for such technologies comes from the automotive industry. More than 125,000 robots went to this sector in 2017, making up a third of all commercial robot sales worldwide.
Hyundai Motor Group has noticed the growing trend and decided to invest in the technologies. The company aims to establish its place in the robotics industry by providing relevant products while supporting its own workers’ health.