FORTIS Deal Provides Exoskeleton Lift

Manufacturing

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY AUG 15, 2017

Exoskeletons that all but eliminated certain injuries among military workers using heavy overhead equipment could literally lighten the load on manufacturing employees across a wide spectrum of industries. And the product bringing the change will be made in Sarasota. ROBRADY Design and Lockheed Martin last week announced a new sales and support agreement that allows the FORTIS industrial exoskeleton and tool arm line, a move allowing the product to marketed in the commercial industrial marketplace.

“We will be producing here and may provide training in Sarasota,” says Rob Brady, CEO for ROBRADY. “We’re happy to take on an opportunity like this, that fortifies our footprint in the community.”

ROBRADY and Lockheed Martin began work on the FORTIS exoskeleton in 2014, producing the device for military uses. The exoskeletons have been used for industrial applications within the military, such as aircraft maintenance and shipyard construction, says Keith Maxwell, project manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. The unpowered exoskeleton effectively increases its operator’s strength so that workers can move 30-pound crates as if they were in a zero-G environment.

As the use saw great success within the military, Maxwell says its commercial appeal became increasingly clear. “Our focus with the FORTIS product is trying to reach that bigger market,” he says, rattling off such sectors as the automotive industry, heavy construction or any field where workers get asked to hold heavy power tools in awkward and potentially dangerous positions. Since Lockheed Martin’s business expertise lies in government contracts, the deal was struck with ROBRADY to explore the private sector market.

While the makers cannot yet divulge clients interested in purchasing exoskeletons, Brady says around 10 companies already have taken steps to put the FORTIS to use. That should only grow as the device gets showcased at trade shows. And as that happens, the workforce dedicated to creating, designing and improving exoskeletons of the future will enjoy a significant lift.

Rendering courtesy ROBRADY: Diagram of FORTIS Exoskeleton.

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