Exoskeleton | Top 12 Exoskeletons Available in the Market

One of the most lovable fictional characters in the marvel cinematic universe is Iron man. We love that character due to his ability to save people and the things that he can do. He is just like any other man in normal life but wearing the exoskeleton he is a superhero. So he gets his ability from the suit. Now anyone can be an iron man, just we need his suit to work with. Here comes the role of scientists who were trying to develop this kind of suit for a long time even before the release of Iron man(2008) scientists called them exoskeletons. Their main role is to enhance human abilities and support them.


Iron man suit

The first exosuit developed was Hardiman. Hardiman was the first powered exosuit designed by the company General Electric between 1965 and 1971. The Hardiman project was led by Ralph Mosher. It was designed mainly to allow the wearer to lift weights upto 600KG. But it was never successful because its parts would not work as a whole. When tried to make them work it resulted in violent uncontrollable motion. Thus it was just the first attempt to build a powered exoskeleton.


Hardiman suit

Now that exoskeleton building evolved, Exoskeletons are now called in many ways as a Battlesuit, Cybernetic suit, Cybernetic armor, Exosuit, Hardsuit, Exoframe based on their usage. The exoskeleton provides support to the human body. It reduces the stress on the wearer’s muscles with increased strength. The exoskeletons are classified into two types based on the power requirement as active exoskeleton (powered) and passive exoskeleton. A passive exoskeleton is an exoskeleton without having any gear that gets powered with a battery i.e., Passive without any power supply to it. It provides support to the body and aids its user in doing some specific tasks. The powered exoskeleton has a power supply to it. It enhances the wearer’s power and strength 2 to 3 times, it supports him and enhances the weight lifting capacity while reducing the stress on the muscles by using electric motors and hydraulics. Compared with passive exoskeleton powered one has many applications.


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Top 12 Exoskeletons available in the market.


Medical exoskeletons


In the medical field, they help patients in recovery. They help users with lost limbs in their daily routine by aiding them. It helps patients suffering from a genetic disorder, spinal cord injury in their rehabilitation there are many exoskeletons developed for a different cause and purpose out of which the following are the most popular ones.


Rewalk exoskeleton.


Rewalk is a wearable lower-body exoskeleton designed by Rewalk Robotics Ltd. It provides users with spinal cord injury support and helps them in recovery. So they can walk, run, climb, and descend stairs.


Rewalk exoskeleton

Atlas 2030 exoskeleton.


Atlas 2030is the world’s first exoskeleton designed for children. It is jointly designed by CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) and Marsi Bionics. It is a powered suit designed especially for kids between 3 to 14 years suffering from spinal muscular atrophy.


Atlas 2030 exoskeleton

Harmony SHR exoskeleton.


Harmony SHR is an upper-body exoskeleton suit developed by Harmonic Bionics. It is designed to support upper body movement impairments. It works with the patient’s scapulohumeral rhythm (SHR)  to enable rehabilitation therapy for both arms.


Harmony SHR exoskeleton

Ekso NR exoskeleton


Ekso NR is a lower-body exosuit developed by Ekso Bionics. Ekso NR is designed for neuro-rehab patients so they can walk. Patients suffering from brain injury, stroke, spinal injury can also use this model teaching the brain and muscles to walk.


Ekso NR exoskeleton

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Military exoskeletons


The military exoskeleton provides support for the users for carrying heavy loads. It helps the soldiers in crossing difficult terrains that are very intensive, helps them work in some conditions which require heavy physical strength it increases the strength and endurance of the wearer. Many exoskeletons are developed for the military out of which the following are very popular


HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) exoskeleton


HULC is a battery-powered hydraulic actuated anthropomorphic exoskeleton designed by Lockheed Martin Corporation. HULC allows the wearer to carry weights up to 100kgs for a distance of 20 km with ease. It allows the user to perform squats, crawls, upper body lifting.


HULC exoskeleton

XOS 2 exoskeleton


XOS 2 is a second-generation exoskeleton suit after its predecessor XOS 1 it is designed by the company Raytheon technologies. XOS 2 allows the user to lift weights upto 100 kgs easily over a hundred times without tiring and the ability to punch through three-inch wood. Raytheon’s exoskeleton is called the real-life ‘Iron man suit’.


XOS 2 exoskeleton

Power Walk exoskeleton


Power walk is a power harvesting knee exoskeleton designed by Bionic Power Inc. It generates power from the movement of the heel by converting the kinetic energy into electric energy. Thus it allows the wearer to recharge batteries from his power. (I have explained about these similar types of devices where we use human body as an energy source in my article)


Power walk exoskeleton

Guardian XO exoskeleton


Guardian XO full-body exoskeleton developed by Sarcos. It is the first battery-powered industrial robot used for safer productive manufacturing, construction, and field service. Specially designed for military logistics applications


Guardian XO exoskeleton


Industry exoskeletons.


Coming to the industry in the industry the worker has to do stressful production line jobs. Exoskeletons can be used in such conditions enhancing the worker’s physical capabilities. Increasing the production and quality of work. The following are the most reputed exoskeletons used in the industry.


HAL exoskeleton


HAL means Hybrid Assistive Limb. It is a powered exosuit developed by Japan’s Tsukuba University and the robotics company Cyberdyne. It is used across 130 different institutions in japan. It enhances the physical capabilities of its user so it is used for construction work and disaster management.


HAL exoskeleton

VEX exoskeleton


VEX is an exoskeleton developed by the Hyundai motor company. It is designed for industrial use especially for production line workers. It enhances the load support and mobility of the user.


VEX exoskeleton

Chairless chair exoskeleton


Chairless chair is an exoframe designed by noonee. It locks itself in a position and allows its user to sit anywhere it is extremely helpful to industrial workers. It allows the user to change between walking, sitting, and standing positions comfortably.


Chairless Chair exoskeleton

Cray X exoskeleton


Cray X is an exoskeleton developed by German Bionics. Cray X provides support for its users in manual handling tasks, warehousing tasks. It provides greater agility to optimize processes in the supply chain.


Cray X exoskeleton


Limitations of exoskeletons


There are many limitations of the technology available now that is required to build a fully functional exoskeleton.


Power supply.


One of the main problems for making an exoskeleton is the power supply. For the whole exoskeleton to work lots of energy is needed when we use batteries they get drained in less time. So we need to change the batteries frequently, to overcome it we can use our own human body as an energy source. 


Materials 


Exoskeleton building depends on materials used for its construction that materials available for less cost are too dense to use which makes the exoskeleton heavy. If we use costly materials then we may be able to build a lightweight exoskeleton but it is not an economic one available to all. So we have to think of better alternatives to avoid this limitation.


Joint flexibility


It is one of the important factors to consider while building an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton should be built in such a way that it is easy to move our muscles in the suit. Because people won’t like the ones which are tight. So it should build flexible.


Adaption to user size


The exoskeleton should be built such that it adapts to user size. But it not possible as of the technology available now so we have to think of a new alternative to build models which adapt to the user size variations.


Exoskeletons now may be a futuristic idea. But let us hope that it will soon come into existence. Such that everyone can experience the power of an iron man. 


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