A robotic exoskeleton arm that increases human strength has won the 2013 James Dyson Award.
The battery-powered Titan Arm can be fitted to the upper-body and can augment human weight-lifting strength by 18kg, according to the inventors, while the batteries can last for up to eight hours, depending on the intensity of usage and workload.
Designed by a team of mechanical engineering students from the University of Pennsylvania over eight months, the arm is designed to help rehabilitate people with back injuries, allowing them to rebuild muscle and relearn motor control, as well as aiding those lifting objects as part of their daily work.
The device uses on-board sensors to provide rich data on things like range of motion for use in physical therapy by doctors and patients to more accurately track improvement over time.
James Dyson said: “Titan Arm is obviously an ingenious design, but the team’s use of modern, rapid and relatively inexpensive manufacturing techniques makes the project even more compelling.”
The $45,000 (£28,000) prize money won today will fund further development, testing and, ultimately, commercialisation, while the University of Pennsylvania will receive a further $16,000 from the James Dyson Foundation to invest in rapid prototyping equipment.
The Titan Arm prototype cost $2,000 to produce, a significant cost reduction compared to similar exoskeletons that are currently upwards of $100,000, and the team hopes to eventually market the suit commercially for less than $10,000 as well as aiming to tailor-fit the arm to specific users by using the latest 3D printing techniques.
Nick Parrotta of Titan Arm said: “We wanted Titan Arm to be affordable, as exoskeletons are rarely covered by health insurance. This informed our design decisions and the materials we used. Most structural components are machined from inexpensive aluminium.”