Development of the Apex line of exosuits began in 2015 by biomechanical and ergonomics experts at Vanderbilt University.
The Apex 2 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 with a single switch. The Apex 2 improves on the original Apex by:
- The overall Apex 2 back depth is more than 50% thinner than on Apex 1, making it even more comfortable for people to sit or lean back in. This is meant to increase the comfort of users while sitting in higher-backed chairs, forklifts, truck seats, etc.
- Revised shape and construction of the strap component to improve load distribution across the torso and drastically improve comfort when reaching in front of the body.
- HeroWear also reduced the surface area on the back by half by turning it into a ventilated panel that reduces heat retention.
- Reduced the surface area of the thigh sleeves by 40%, with the intent to further reduce heat retention.
- The Apex 2 also incorporates a patent-pending quick tightening/loosening feature to the thigh sleeves. For more on this, see the peer-reviewed study “Exoskeletons and Exosuits Could Benefit from Mode-Switching Body Interfaces That Loosen/Tighten to Improve Thermal Comfort.” (Elstub 2021) In summary, the study suggests that exoskeleton straps (in this case, at the legs) should be automatically loosened when the wearable device is not actively assisting the user in order to reduce the amount of heat trapped by them.
- Multiple additional subtle changes and design improvements in the shape, material, and suit conformity based on user feedback.
- HeroWear upgraded the fabric to a 1000D ballistic nylon that is more abrasion-resistant.
- Replaced the hook-and-loop fastener on the old thigh sleeves with a polymer buckle (originally a Velcro strap).
- Upgraded the polymer used for the plastic components in the clutch and replaced the elastic band connections with aircraft-grade aluminum.
Carried over from the original Apex is HeroWear’s commitment to fitting both men and women within a larger range of various different body sizes and shapes. The Apex 2 also retains the get-out-of-the-way assistance philosophy (the switch on the shoulder of the Apex engages and disengages the tension of the elastic elements in the back with a single click). The exosuit continues to be modular with interchangeable pieces, and all combined weigh 3 pounds (compared to 3.4 pounds for the previous model).
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 can react 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 Apex Science Overview: External Link
HeroWear, Headquarters: Nashville, TN, U.S. website
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