Even though there are many processes that can be automated in the manufacturing industry, there are some tasks that still require human use. Unfortunately, many of these tasks can be dangerous and are a leading cause of injury in this field. All told, it is estimated that injuries to manufacturers in the European Union number around 40 million per year, with a cost of around $240 billion Euros annually.
Since these tasks cannot be properly automated with machines, engineers are developing a new way that will allow workers to automate functions, while protecting them from injury. A new human-guided exoskeleton is currently being developed to answer this problem.
Engineers from 7 countries in the European Union are working together to develop this project. It is hoped that it will begin in the later part of 2013, although much testing will be required to determine just how effective this new human-guided exoskeleton can be and whether or not it will help workers complete functions safely.
The new project has been named Robo-Mate and is being funded by the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development of the European Union (FP7), which provided 4.5 million Euros in funding.
The purpose of the Robo-Mate will be to automate repetitive functions in a manufacturing environment. Over time, it will be possible to program different functions into the Robo-Mate to perform a variety of different tasks.
This is a move forward that both engineers and workers can agree upon. Human workers don’t have to worry about losing their jobs to machines, and they will also be able to work in a much safer environment. The amount of money that these countries will save on worker’s compensation related claims could be significant.
This is very exciting news for those within the engineering and manufacturing fields. As the Robo-Mate is tested and its full capabilities become known, it will be possible to make further advancements that will enable it to be used in several different types of manufacturing environment. Although the testing is still in its early phases, it is clear that there may be a wide variety of uses for a human-guided exoskeleton.
While it may seem like the idea is borrowed from the pages of a science fiction novel, this type of exoskeleton could have many various uses in other fields, such as in medicine to assist doctors during operations as well as in warfare to protect fighters. Only time will tell what the true capabilities will be, but it is clear that the future is very bright for this field.
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