The DARPA Warrior Web program aims to significantly lower the “metabolic cost” — or energy expenditure — of troops operating in the field, and reduce the physiological burden of the gear that they carry, which can exceed 100 pounds.
They are developing soft robotic exosuits that are designed to provide power and torque to critical body joints. At least 15 Warrior Web prototypes have been tested in laboratories and outdoor settings.
The amount of reduction depends on the individual wearing the suit, but researchers have seen greater than 10 percent in some cases, he said.
Conor Walsh, a leading robotics expert at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, said the goal is to achieve a reduction of 25 percent or more. “The exciting thing is that you’re able to now kind of say … it’s possible to make it easier for a healthy person to walk when carrying a load,” he said. “Now we’re kind of at this next juncture … to say, ‘How do we make the benefit as big as possible?’”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is bullish about the potential of robotic exosuits.
“They’re not ready for prime time today but … I think within 10 years things like that [soft exosuis) are going to be very, very possible on the battlefield,” he said at a recent conference.
For the Warrior Web program, DARPA has set the maximum power consumption from the battery source at 100 watts. But the equipment would probably need to consume less than that for it to be viable in the field, Girolamo said.
Weight is also a concern. A heavy exosuit would add to the warfighter’s load burden and offset any metabolic reduction gains that it could generate. A system would likely need to weigh 6 kilograms or less to be effective, said Tom Sugar, an engineering professor and the co-founder of Arizona State University’s Human Machine Integration Lab, which has received DARPA funding for exosuit development.
Army officials recently held a preliminary design review of a Wyss Institute robotic system and discussed improvements that could be made. The metabolic reduction numbers “looked good,” and a limited user evaluation is slated for spring 2017, Girolamo said.
Walsh expects to demonstrate the “optimized version” of his team’s prototype suit next summer.
Development efforts undertaken thus far have put Army scientists and engineers in a strong position to take the project to the next level, Girolamo said.
SuitX, a spin-off of the University of California, Berkeley, that makes exoskeletons for those with disabilities, has launched a trio of devices that use robotic technologies to enhance the abilities of able-bodied workers and prevent common workplace injuries.
The Modular Agile eXoskeleton, or MAX, consists of three components—backX, shoulderX, and legX—that lower the forces on different joints and muscles. They can be worn individually or together to help with lifting, carrying, squatting, and other repetitive manual tasks.
The MAX system is designed to provide a flexible exoskeleton solution that can be adapted for a variety of different workplace tasks. The result is a versatile system that can allow workers to complete shoulder, lower back, and leg intensive tasks with reduced injury risk while remaining comfortable enough to wear all day. MAX is composed of three exoskeleton modules: backX, shoulderX, and legX. Each module can be worn independently and in any combination depending on need. All modules intelligently engage when you need them, and don’t impede you otherwise. Ascending and descending stairs and ladders, driving, and biking are completely unimpeded.
Countless field evaluations conducted at construction, material handling, shipbuilding, foundry, and airport baggage handling sites in the US and Japan, as well as research in Berkeley led to the development of MAX modules. Extensive laboratory evaluations on MAX at the University of California indicate the MAX system reduces muscle force required to complete tasks by as much as 60 percent. MAX won two Saint Gobain Nova Innovation Awards for its intelligent design, effectiveness, affordability, outstanding ergonomic features and ease of use.
Designed for all-day wear, backX never impedes natural movements and the wearer can walk, ascend and descend stairs and ladders, drive automobiles, ride bicycles, run and perform any maneuver with absolutely no restriction.
ShoulderX supports 15 pounds per arm and shoulder
BackX reduces 30 lbs from back load
The shoulder, back and legs are where 90% of workplace injuries occur.
The Medical FDA approval should be in early 2018.
The workplace exosuit is available this month.
- Adjustable Support: Support capacity can be quickly changed to accommodate different users, tools, tasks, and fatigue level.
- Optimized Support: Support force gradually increases as the user lifts his arms and becomes near zero when the arms are lowered, allowing the user to rest arms naturally or reach for tools on their tool belt.
- Load Distribution: shoulderX transfers forces from the arms to the hips when worn alone, or to the ground when worn in conjunction with legX
- Adjustable Size: Fits range of worker height, waist size, shoulder width, chest depth, and arm length (5%-95% of human dimensions)
- Anthropometric Profile: Follows user’s body to fit in tight spaces and changing environments
- Lightweight: shoulderX weighs 10.6 lbs (4.8 kg) with one arm attached and 12.4 lbs (5.6 kg) with two arms attached
- No Batteries Required: Cleverly designed to reduce the risk of shoulder and arm injuries without the use of actuators and computers
- Rugged: Waterproof, dustproof, and easy to maintain
- Comfortable: Minimal inhibition of arm and torso range of motion. Designed for all-day wear
- Modular: One or two arm use, compatible with backX and legX.
- Compatible: Compatible with standard construction safety harnesses and tool belts, allowing workers normal equipment to retain functionality
- Quick Donning and Doffing: Less than 1 minute to put on or take off
Marine Mojo – Knee injury protection
The company Twenty Knots Plus (20KTS+) is developing a creative new exoskeleton: the Marine Mojo. The Marine Mojo is a passive, single task exoskeleton with a specialized target market. It absorbs the shocks and vibrations from standing on fast moving, small water crafts. These types of speed boats are often used by the military, Coastguard, police and wildlife government agencies to patrol bays and rivers.
US Special Forces should see liquid armor TALOS exoskeleton prototypes by 2018
Progress is being made on exoskeletons for US special forces. The exoskeletons are designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat.
The Australian army is working with US special ops command on exoskeletons that will give soldiers superhuman strength. Trials of the latest powered titanium exoskeletons likely to take place in 2017. The custom-made titanium suit clips around the body, with its spine taking the weight of a soldier’s pack.
“Version one is not powered but we are currently working on a powered version for the US,” he said. “In the US, it’s called the Iron Man Project.”
The powered suits sense muscle reflexes and activate to take the weight of the soldier’s movement.
While the company featured its exoskeleton at a major gathering of military and defense industries in Adelaide in August, it could not be photographed, Mr Graham said.
The technologies currently being developed include
- body suit-type exoskeletons
- strength and power-increasing systems and
- additional protection.
Liquid Piston high efficiency engine
Liquid Piston is developing several small rotary internal combustion engines developed to operate on the High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle (HEHC). The cycle, which combines high compression ratio (CR), constant-volume (isochoric) combustion, and overexpansion, has a theoretical efficiency of 75% using air-standard assumptions and first-law analysis. This innovative rotary engine architecture shows a potential indicated efficiency of 60% and brake efficiency of over 50%. As this engine does not have poppet valves and the gas is fully expanded before the exhaust stroke starts, the engine has potential to be quiet. Similar to the Wankel rotary engine, the ‘X’ engine has only two primary moving parts – a shaft and rotor, resulting in compact size and offering low-vibration operation. Unlike the Wankel, however, the X engine is uniquely configured to adopt the HEHC cycle and its associated efficiency and low-noise benefits. The result is an engine which is compact, lightweight, low-vibration, quiet, and fuel-efficient.
- High power density – up to 2 HP / Lb (3.3 kW / kg)
- 30% smaller and lighter for spark-ignition (SI) gasoline engines
- Up to 75% smaller and lighter for compression-ignition (CI) diesel engines
In an exoskeleton the engines would only be run to recharge batteries.
A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include
- advanced armor,
- command and control computers,
- power generators, and
- enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels
MIT and Poland working on liquid body armor
MIT is developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
Liquid body armor transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied.
The liquid is called Shear-Thickening Fluid (STF). STF does not conform to the model of Newtonian liquids, such as water, in which the force required to move the fluid faster must increase exponentially, and its resistance to flow changes according to temperature. Instead STF hardens upon impact at any temperature, providing protection from penetration by high-speed projectiles and additionally dispersing energy over a larger area
The exact composition of the STF is known only to Moratex and its inventors at the Military Institute of Armament Technology in Warsaw, but ballistic tests proved its resistance to a wide range of projectiles.
“We needed to find, design a liquid that functions both with projectiles hitting at the velocity of 450 meters per second and higher. We have succeeded,” said Deputy Director for Research at the Moratex institute, Marcin Struszczyk.
Struszczyk said the liquid’s stopping capability, combined with the lower indentation of its surface, provides a higher safety level for the user compared with traditional, mostly Kevlar-based, solutions.
“If a protective vest is fitted to the body, then a four centimeter deep deflection may cause injury to the sternum, sternum fracture, myocardial infarction, lethal damage to the spleen,” Struszczyk said.
“Thanks to the properties of the liquid, thanks to the proper formation of the insert, we eliminate one hundred percent of this threat because we have reduced the deflection from four centimeters to one centimeter.”
When hit by a high-speed projectile, a wide area of the STF hardens instantly, causing the usually massive energy to be dispersed away from the wearer’s internal organs.
Implementing the solution in body armor required designing special inserts, but the company says those are lighter than standard ballistic inserts and broader range of movement for their users in the police and military.
The laboratory is also working on a magnetorheological fluid, which they hope can be also applied in their products.
According to the researchers, both liquids can find applications beyond body armor, such as in the production of professional sports inserts, and even entire outfits. Another use could be in car bumpers or road protective barriers.
SOURCES – Reuters, Scout.com, MIT
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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