Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Hyundai unveils wearable exoskeleton as part of a range of robotics developments

Hyundai Motor Group is developing a range of robotics technologies which the company says it will roll out over the next year or two. 

Hyundai has developed a new “Vest EXoskeleton” (VEX), a wearable robot created to assist industrial workers who spend long hours working in overhead environments.

The VEX enhances productivity and reduces fatigue of industrial workers by imitating the movement of human joints to boost load support and mobility.

The wearable vest the polycentric axis – combining multiple pivot points with multi-link muscular assistance – to function, eliminating the need for a battery.

At 2.5 kg, VEX weighs 22-42 per cent less than competing products and is worn like a backpack.

The user places their arms through the shoulder straps of the vest, then fastens the chest and waist buckles. The back section can adjust in length by up to 18 cm to fit a variety of body sizes, while the degree of force assistance can be adjusted over six levels – up to as much as 5.5 kgf.

DongJin Hyun, head of the robotics team at Hyundai Motor Group, says: “VEX gives workers greater load support, mobility, and adaptability when operating in overhead environments.

“Workers will also appreciate how light VEX is to wear and work with.”

The newly-developed VEX is targeted at production-line workers whose job is primarily overhead, such as those bolting the underside of vehicles, fitting brake tubes, and attaching exhausts.

The development of the VEX included a pilot program in two Hyundai Motor Group plants in the US. The trial was widely successful in assisting workers and boosting productivity and both plants incorporated VEX systems in their production lines.

The Hyundai Group is considering implementing the VEX on plants around the world.

It is expected to go into commercial production in December by Hyundai Rotem and is projected to cost as much as 30 per cent lower than existing products which usually costs around $5,000.

Hyundai commercializes Chairless EXoskeleton

As part of the Group’s plans to develop a diverse range of robotics technologies, another lightweight wearable device is soon to be commercialized.

The “Chairless EXoskeleton” (CEX) supports workers to maintain a sitting position without a stool or chair.

At 1.6 kg, it is light yet highly durable and able to withstand weights of up to 150 kg.

The CEX’s waist, thigh, and knee belts can be easily fitted and adjusted to the user’s body size and height. It also features three different angle settings (85 / 70 / 55 degrees).

By reducing the user’s back and lower body muscle activity by 40 per cent, it reduces fatigue and improves efficiency.

Hyundai says the development of the VEX and CEX demonstrates its “steadfast commitment to the health and wellbeing of its industrial workers and its ongoing exploration of advanced robotics”.

The Group also plans to showcase diverse robotics technology, including:

  • a “Hotel Service Robot”;
  • a “Sales Service Robot”;
  • an “Electric Vehicle Charging Manipulator”; and
  • other “Robotic Personal Mobility” solutions in the future.

The future for wearable robotics

According to the International Federation of Robotics, the wearable robotics industry is growing 14 per cent annually, a rate which is accelerating.

By 2021 approximately 630,000 commercial robots will be sold worldwide, with the greatest demand coming from the automotive sector.

In 2017, 126,000 robots were supplied to the auto sector, making-up 33 per cent of all commercial robots.

Recognizing the market trend, Hyundai Motor Group says it is making “active investments” and strengthening its presence within the growing robotics industry by securing relevant technologies.