Swedish company develops battery-powered glove to reduce fatigue

Swedish company develops battery-powered glove to reduce fatigue

Repeating the same task over and over can lead to chronic injury and can lead to chronic injury, if you work in a factory or warehouse. A battery-powered glove could help workers by taking some strain.

The Ironhand glove strengthens the wearer's grip, so they don't have to use as much force to perform repetitive manual tasks. Bioservo, a developer, says it can increase the wearer's hand strength by 20%.

The Swedish company describes the system as a soft exoskeleton. Exoskeletons are an external device that supports and protects the body, typically increasing strength and endurance. Most of the ironhands are soft, like a regular glove, but they have a rigid structure.

Mikael Wester, Bioservo's marketing director, said the glove provides strength and reduces the effort needed to lift objects when you have it on. It is intended to reduce fatigue and prevent strain injuries in the long run. The system consists of a backpack that houses the power pack, and artificial tendons that connect to the glove. Sensors are on each fingertip that switch on the motor when a user grabs an object. A remote control or app can be used to adjust the strength and sensitivity of the grip.

Wester says that applications include assembly on the production line in the automotive industry, using tools in construction and lifting heavy objects in warehouses.

Each Ironhand system costs around €6,000 $7,275 The company also collects data that allows them to assess the wearer s risk of developing strain injuries.

According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, neck and upper limb disorders are the most common occupational disease in Europe, costing national economies up to 2% of their gross national product.

The glove was originally intended for workers in a very different setting than on the factory floor. NASA developed a early version of the technology, called Robo-Glove, to help astronauts grasp objects and carry out work in space.

Bioservo licensed the design in 2016 and then partnered with auto manufacturer General Motors GM to develop the glove for its workers.

Ergonomics is a field of trying to fit the jobs to the workers rather than having to adapt to the job, says Stephen Krajcarski, senior manager with GM's ergonomics team.

By using tools such as the Ironhand, we are trying to minimize any potential concerns or physical demands that may cause a medical concern for the individual operator. Krajcarski says GM has helped Bioservo to test and improve the Ironhand by piloting it in a variety of jobs at its manufacturing plants.

He says that it is not suitable for all situations and that some workers have found it easy to use.

The Ironhand is one of the exoskeletons that GM is looking into. The exoskeleton market will grow from $392 million in 2020 to $6.8 billion by the year 2030, according to market research firm ABI Research.

Krajcarski says that this is one of the tools that are out there when you look at exoskeletons.