Ford Uses Wearable Technology To Improve Car Making

Ford Motor Company has been implementing various wearable technologies around company assembly plants to protect workers and create more efficient manufacturing environments. The company revealed they are using body tracking technology and exoskeleton suits to better protect workers from the physically-demanding conditions.

The EksoVest

The exoskeleton, known as the EksoVest, was introduced to Ford plants in conjunction with Ekso Bionics to reduce fatigue and injury from repetitive motions in the vehicle assembly process. Ford says the vest “elevates and supports a worker’s arms while performing overhead tasks” that involve using power tools and other equipment.

The vest provides five to 15 pounds of lift assistance per arm, while also being lightweight and easily maneuvered in. Bruce Hettle, a Ford vice president who oversees manufacturing and labor affairs, said that Ford developed the suit to minimize  on employees’ bodies.

“Building vehicles is physically a tough job,” Hettle said. “We care about our employees and are trying to help them do their jobs with the least amount of wear and tear on their bodies possible.”

The EksoVest was tested in trials at two Ford assembly plants and is now available at every Ford assembly plant in North America, as well as plants in Europe, South America and Asia Pacific.

Jack Peurach, the president and CEO of Ekso Bionics, said that the company is committed to pushing past physical limitations through the development of new technology. He also said working hand-in-hand with Ford helps the company improve the well-being of workforces worldwide.

“At Ekso, our mission is to augment human capability with wearable technology and robotics that help people rethink current physical limitations and achieve the remarkable,” Peurach said in a joint statement with Ford. “Advancing our collaboration with a global leader like Ford, represents a major step forward in achieving our mission as our EksoVest is deployed around the world to enhance the well-being of its workforce.”

Body Tracking Technology

Ford has also been using body tracking suits to monitor movements of employees. These suits, the same kind used by sports stars to review movements and perfect skills, are being used by Ford to design workstations for employees that are safer and less-demanding.

The suit is skin-tight and features 15 small movement tracking light sensors that are connected to a wireless detection unit. The suit and detection unit tracks head, neck, shoulder and limb movements that is recorded by four motion-tracking cameras that capture a 3-D animation of the person wearing the suit.

Ford believes that the body tracking suit can help employee make minor adjustments to the way they move that will have a significant effect.

“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, a production area manager at a Ford engine assembly plant in Valencia, Spain. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”

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