The wearable tech benefiting the construction sector
Technology is continuing to make revolutionary strides in the construction and development industry. Exoskeletons are leading this charge. Making their way into the construction industry, these “super hero suits” are helping workers be more productive, but also more safe. These machines main goal is to mitigate accumulated stress from repetitive and prolonged tasks throughout the work day. These tasks range from screwing car bolts overhead in a car factory to drilling into walls while holding up heavy equipment.
Ranging from helping single body parts (e.g. back support) to entire body units, these machines are transforming normal workers into Terminator robot lookalikes. Sometimes referred to as “exosuits,” they are becoming the construction workers go-to uniform.
Many contractors are advocates and believe that wearable technology, like construction exoskeletons, will improve the construction industry. The 2018 Q4 Commercial Construction Index found that:
23 percent of contractors believe they’ll adopt wearable technology onsite in the next three years.
Nearly three quarters of contractors believe wearable technology will improve onsite safety.
More than 1 in 3 contractors believe wearable technology can improve labor productivity.
Considering this sort of technology was only seen on “the big screen” a decade ago, this is relatively revolutionary.
Exoskeletons can vary greatly in mechanics, depending on the manufacturer. Some are solely mechanical, while others operate as a hybrid between mechanical and electrical parts. Common frame materials include a combination of metal and softer textiles. Depending on the a suits function and fit, extremely soft cloth is sometimes used.
Exoskeletons operate by shifting weight from one part of the body to other parts, (e.g. from your arms to your legs). This reduces continuous strain, increases endurance and improves productivity of workers. From counterweight pulleys to electrically-driven timing belts, exoskeleton functionality vary greatly depending on relative use of the suit.
Another crucial elements of some suits are to enhance the strength of workers. Power gloves are usually used, for example, to increase the grip and twist torque of an individual. Sensors in the glove regulate how much force should be added to the worker’s native strength in order to complete a task yet not destroy a part — no, they were not created by Stark Industries.
Should these technologies be applied at scale, ideally, more construction workers will be able to enter the workforce, regardless of physical strength.
Mostly, where there is a joint on the body, there is a type of exoskeleton to help with its movement. Currently there are five overarching categories of power suit: power gloves, arm/shoulder support, back support, standing/crouching support, whole-body.
Power gloves improve grip and dexterity for those who experience weakness or are unable to clasp a material completely while grasping. Picking up heavy objects with awkward edging is a typical reason to throw these gloves on.
Arm/shoulder exosuits support workers who need to get heavy tools and materials above the waist. These exoskeletons are ideal for mechanics, as they help with prolonged, overhead drilling tasks. Essay when holding hazardous tools above the head for a long period, these suits can come in handy.
For lifting, workers look to back support suits. These suits help their wears keep proper posture and alleviate some weight off the lower back and spine. Almost all construction workers can benefit from this class of suit.
Standing and crouching suits help with tasks that require repeated crouching and standing continuously. It’s easy to think of these suits as “the chairless chairs” of construction.
Lastly, whole-body suits are about as close to Iron Man as a worker can currently get. These hybrid-functioning suits use mechanical and electrical components to help lift massively heavy objects without putting excessive strain on the body. Technology is still being developed to keep these suits feasible, as they require a plethora of electricity to function.