'Bots On The Docks: Super-Strength Exoskeleton For Super-Sized Shipbuilding

If you've ever wanted superhero strength but don't even like hitting the gym, a new invention may help give you a little extra lift. A robotic exoskeleton, developed for the heavy-lifting laborers of the shipbuilding industry, can heft up to 30 extra kilograms when donned by a human.

According to NewScientist.com, the 28-kilogram frame of carbon, aluminum alloy and steel uses a variety of hydraulic joints and electric motors to allow the wearer to heft extra-large loads. The suit encompasses much of the human form, beginning with footpads and spanning the length of the body with supports, straps and connections to enable the labor. A backpack-mounted unit powers the device.

Individualized components, such as a small crane that would aid in lifting by jutting out over the wearer's head, are also able to interconnect with the exoskeleton. According to South Korean scientist Gilwhoan Chu, the lead engineer for Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, "Our current research target of the lifting capacity is about 100 kilograms." Current problems with the prototype include stability issues on slopes and slippery surfaces, as well as a need for more rotational capability. Still, the prototype is already useful, and will grow ever more so.

Created by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, the suits will aid the shipbuilding company in their next major endeavor. Daewoo, one of the world's largest shipbuilders, is under contract from shipping magnates Maersk to build 10 massive shipping freighters, 400 meters long and able to bear 18,000 shipping containers apiece. If effective, this may continue a trend already in place: at one South Korean shipyard assessed by the U.S. Navy, 68% of operations were completed by robots.


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