The most popular homebrew exoskeleton enthusiast, James Hobson, aka The Hacksmith is back! You probably know him from his homemade upper arm pneumatic exoskeleton that allows him to curl up to 275 pounds (125kg). The Hacksmith has returned with a brand new exoskeleton based on the popular computer game title Call of Duty (CoD). In his newest stunt, James lifts a Mini Cooper in the air using the strength of his partially completed wearable robot:
In the video above, the rear wheels of a Mini Cooper have been rolled onto a metal frame. The frame is then connected to the exoskeleton using a pair of chains. The force required to lift the rear of the car is generated entirely by the wearable robot. The suit uses a battery to run an air compressor and two valves with hand handles are used to fill and empty the pneumatic cylinders. The cylinders reach down to triangular metal bases that connect to the user’s boots via a socket joint. The current battery is relatively weak and lasts only a few minutes, but a better one is planned for future revisions. There are 26 videos that log the CoD exoskeleton build up to this point and the playlist can be found here. While this exoskeleton project is still incomplete, The Hacksmith was able to get it operational enough to do something interesting for the cameras!
Amongst many other projects, The Hacksmith is most famous for his work on his Elysium-inspired exoskeleton; an upper body exoskeleton for curling weights. The entire build was recorded on The Hacksmith‘s YouTube channel. The 25 clip YouTube series covers the entire build of the exosuit from early drawings, computer aided design files, initial prototypes to final design. As James stumbles onto problems and discovers workarounds he introduces people to engineering and wearable robotics. His videos are always positive and inspirational. They show that you can build anything as long as you are passionate and have realistic expectations for the final product.
Why is The Hacksmith so popular?
In addition to his positive attitude and can-do spirit James makes his videos very accessible. He leaves a lot of his errors in the final clips even after hours of editing and he shows his solution or his workaround. For example, in one video clip, he is drilling a sizable hole through a metal piece, but forgets to lower the speed of the drill or to use cutting oil. As the drill bit is chattering around, he stops, thinks about it and then fixes both errors. This promotes learning and makes his videos a lot more relatable. We all make mistakes and learn from them.
Another thing that makes these exoskeleton videos special is that The Hacksmith likes to use everyday materials. Most exoskeleton projects involve custom materials, uniquely 3D printed parts or specifically designed components with convoluted CAD files. James on the other hand, where by design or necessity uses as many off-the-shelf components as possible. For example, it has never been too clear how passive (mechanical advantage) exoskeletons can lock into position, especially at the knees. The Hacksmith’s solution is to use store-bought ratcheting socket wrenches with direction change levers. The wrenches are designed to handle large forces, the handle can be used as part of the exoskeleton frame and the direction change lever is turned into the locking mechanism. While uniquely designed parts make for great looking exoskeletons it is James’ approach that can make them manufacturable and accessible.
You can follow The Hacksmith not only on his YouTube channel but also on his personal website: http://www.thehacksmith.ca. James Hobson is also a prolific writer and has recently quit his job so he can focus on technology and exoskeletons. He sees exoskeletons not only as medical or industrial aid devices but as something that can “revolutionize transportation,” a sentiment shared by the Exoskeleton Report Team!
You can support The Hacksmith on his Patreon page by donating as little as $1 a month and there are a lot of perks and incentives if you choose to go higher.
Edit: April 27, 2016. Incorrectly referred to James Hobson (theHacksmith) as Jason.