The Apex is a fabric-based exosuit designed to assist the back muscles while lifting. The assist can be selectively turned on or off at the control of the user using proprietary technology. Furthermore, the Apex was designed specifically with the intent to fit women as well as men.
The human body has the capability to adapt to a variety of tasks, said CEO Mark Harris during his presentation at WearRAcon20. Importantly, there is a mind behind it that is capable of reacting to complex situations. This combination of physical and mental capabilities makes it likely that people will be working tough and critical jobs for many decades to come. Over time, however, fatigue adds up. Even without physically intensive jobs, most of us will have back pain or a back injury at some point in our lives.
HeroWear has developed a new type of exosuit based on the following principles:
- Do not constrain movement.
- Provide assistance, but only when the user needs it.
The main rationale stems from the idea that for a task-specific exoskeleton, around 90% of the time that task will not be performed and the wearable device just needs to stay out of the way.
The Apex is intended to be a low profile breathable and comfortable device:
- Textile based: the goal is to forget that you are wearing this device while it blends into the background. Special attention was paid to breathability and heat retention. Workers usually work in non-airconditioned and hot environments. The Apex utilizes patent-pending technology for ventilation and its lack of a front chest plate.
- Passive assistance utilizing elastic materials in parallel with the back muscles. The technology was developed at Vanderbilt (there are several papers published by Dr. Karl Zelik).
- Modular: the Apex is designed to be easy to don and doff with estimated 25-30 seconds to put on and 10 seconds to take off. One size fits all doesn’t work without sacrificing cost, weight or comfort. To solve this, the four main components can be swapped out: back piece, straps, thigh sleeves, and bands. By mixing and matching pieces, the goal is to achieve a 95% fit across most body types.
- Dual-mode: the exosuit’s support can be turned on/off with a switch. This is part of another patent-pending technology. Note that walking in assistive mode is not intended to be a hindrance. Disengaging the clutch removes the tension from the elastic elements, allowing employees to sit, walk, operate a forklift, etc…
The HeroWear Fit Kit has 56 unique fit combinations (that can be ordered together or separately) with the intent for the Apex to fit “like a glove” for male and female employees. The Apex was designed from the beginning with the intent to fit women.
HeroCare360 is a full program on storage, cleaning, maintenance, fit, training protocols and training tools that comes with every unit. There is a very high employee turnover rate in logistics, making it important that the device can fit well (one exo per person, no sharing).
HeroWear hopes that the Apex will be a game-changer for the industry. The current (start of 2020) device statistics are 3.4lbs (1.5kg) in weight with the capability to offload the back by 50 pounds with every lift for both male and female workers while preserving their full range of motion and remaining comfortable.
HeroWear, Headquarters: Nashville, TN, U.S. website
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