Ford Valencia Plant Workers Go Sci-Fi With Exoskeleton Suits

Ford exoskeleton suit 5 photos
Photo: Ford
Ford exoskeleton suitFord exoskeleton suitFord exoskeleton suitFord exoskeleton suit
The exoskeleton is Mother Nature’s way of protecting animals that are too fragile without such an apparatus. Think lobsters, snails, tortoises, and even cockroaches. Human beings, however, don't benefit from such a thing because our flesh protects our endoskeleton. Be that as it may, biomimicry is gaining attention from all walks of the industry, including from Ford.
Nicknamed “Iron Man suit,” the exoskeleton Ford introduced at the Ford of Valencia plant in Spain enables workers to lift and maneuver auto components that are too heavy for comfort. The gadget isn’t a technological wonder, but comes as a response to the musculoskeletal disorders that make up 61 percent of all work-related illnesses in Europe.

“Working on an assembly line requires knowledge, skill and can be physically challenging,” explains Dale Wishnousky, vice president of Manufacturing at Ford of Europe. “Exoskeleton suits might look like something out of sci-fi but they really can help to reduce stress for our employees and make physically demanding tasks easier.”

Exoskeleton suits have been trialed at other automotive factories in the past, but the initiative at Ford Valencia is the first of the lot to integrate the technology into the production process. This is the place where FoMoCo makes the Kuga (a.k.a. Escape), Galaxy, S-Max, and the Transit Connect.

The suit in the photo gallery and video is made from a combination of carbon fiber and lightweight titanium, and nine suits are currently in use by Valencia’s workers. The plan it to expand the exoskeleton-equipped workforce to 100 employees. In addition to helping workers move and carry anything that weighs more than three kilograms, the suits offer protection against injury by reducing the strees and strain on the body.

“The exoskeleton suit makes a big difference, and at the end of a shift I feel much fresher,” says 34-year-old Ramon Navarrete, assembly worker who helps fit vehicle interiors.

Ford highlights the suit is part of the automaker’s investment into Industry 4.0. What’s that, you might be asking? That would be a term that describes the “fourth industrial revolution,” which focuses on further automation, data exchange, and new manufacturing technologies.

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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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