Simplifying Complexity for Effective Results
FORTIS, an unpowered, lightweight exoskeleton developed by Lockheed Martin, has seen its capabilities extended over the last year in a partnership between the company and Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research (IISRI), the company announced at Land Forces 2018 in Adelaide on 4 September.
Using signal processing to analyse motion capture data obtained from sensors on the arms and shoulders of exoskeleton operators, the IISRI team used biomechanics to test the ergonomic effects of using power tools on the human body. They also designed and 3D-printed new attachments to expand the functionality of FORTIS, allowing it to accommodate external loads usually mounted on the back of the human body. FORTIS makes tools weighing up to 16.3kg seem weightless – effectively reducing operator fatigue and improving safety.
“Lockheed Martin invests in partnerships with Australia’s research and industry communities to support our global supply chains, providing opportunities for technology transfer, innovation, local skilled jobs and sustainable business growth,” commented Lockheed Martin Australia’s Strategic Engagement Director, Scott Thompson, at the conference. “The innovative work done by Dr. Mohammed Hossny and his team at IISRI extends the technological foundation for the FORTIS Exoskeleton with the potential for a broad range of applications across the defence, automotive, and mining industries.”
“Originating from Lockheed Martin’s exoskeleton research to assist soldiers to carry heavy equipment over long distances, the same principles of how the body works and expends energy were applied to exoskeleton development for use in industrial settings [….] The technology supporting the exoskeleton may look simple, but developing technologies that are a help and not a hindrance is a deceptively difficult engineering task. No two people are the same, so the exoskeleton needs to be designed to adjust and fit any sized person and accommodate different anthropometry,” observed the company’s Senior Business Development Manager, James Heading.
“The project has accelerated the design-testing loop for designing and tuning exoskeletons. [….] There is often a trade-off to be considered when adopting assistive devices in the workplace. While assistive devices help channel the load through the skeletal structure of the exoskeleton, our work optimises the operator’s movement so they are able to cope with increased repetition and indirect loads during motions,” explained IISRI Senior Research Fellow Dr Mohammed Hossny, adding that the project was led by Darius Nahavandi as part of his PhD research, to identify the importance of biomechanical analysis of assistive devices.