Guardian® XO® Exoskeleton Use Case:
Augmenting worker performance and improving efficiency with a full-body, powered exoskeleton
More productive worksites while avoiding injury
What if you could combine the skill and know-how of construction workers with the strength and precision of robotics to help with material handling and build tasks? Cutting-edge construction exoskeletons can do just that.
Case in point, the Guardian XO full-body, powered exoskeleton is designed to boost productivity, minimize the risk of workplace injury, and enable more laborers to lift, move, and manipulate heavier loads by themselves. The suit utilizes robotics, sensors, and software to help solo workers move loads of up to 200 pounds (90 kg) on construction sites.
A battery-powered exoskeleton is ideal for manipulating and conveying heavy materials from the point of unloading to where the tradesperson needs them. It is also designed to bear the brunt of overhead lifting tasks and heavy tool work that strains the back, neck, and shoulders.
The Guardian XO exoskeleton:
• Supplements human labor in heavy lifting, allowing the operator to move naturally with 24 degrees of freedom
• Features hot-swappable batteries as its onboard power source for near-continuous operation
• Enables safe lifting of up to 200 pounds (90 kg), regardless of the size or strength of the operator
• Allows quick deployment; taking the suit on and off takes less than 30 seconds, with additional provisions for sudden egress
• Reduces strain on body parts most prone to injury from heavy physical exertion, including shoulders, lower back, and knees
• Designed to minimize the physical strain by offloading the weight of the carried item, plus the weight of the robotic suit itself
The Guardian XO exoskeleton becomes a force multiplier in hands-free mode, allowing the operator to lift an object like a 100-pound (45 kg) beam in place and have the robotics hold it while they use two free hands to hammer, drill, or weld it.
How can exoskeletons be used onsite?
A construction exoskeleton is worn by the worker and reacts to their natural movements, augmenting the ordinary motion of limbs and joints. Because the Guardian XO exoskeleton is modeled on the human body, operating it is intuitive and easy to learn. It offers the operator optimal maneuverability on the construction site, with an effortless command of heavy power tools or oversized objects.
The three following scenarios illustrate how the Guardian XO full-body powered exoskeleton can help improve productivity, minimize risks like lower-back injury, and address the workforce shortage in construction.
Long, unwieldy bundles of rebar travel cross-country on flatbed trucks and trailers, but ironworkers need an efficient, low-strain way to move them off the truck and across the job site to the point where they're needed. Using the Guardian XO exoskeleton, a single laborer can perform the work of two or more.
Moving, installing, and dismantling formwork
Formwork for pouring concrete is common in road and rail construction. A cycle of installing and dismantling 45-pound (20 kg) steel or wood panels on a typical site can take two workers multiple days. The exoskeleton can enable a single worker to handle the lifting, transporting, set up, and tear-down formwork that would typically take two or more to complete.
Lift in the right place
Cranes, hoists, and forklifts are made for heavy lifting, but they are not made for tightly constrained spaces like elevator shafts or inaccessible areas like the 40th floor. Rather than asking workers to perform unassisted lifts in small rooms and areas with little clearance, project managers can equip them with the Guardian XO exoskeleton. The robot is designed to enable workers of nearly any size and strength, which helps equalize the workforce and allows companies to tap into a larger pool of workers.
Since human judgment and expertise guide the robotic suit's movements, an operator wearing it can work right alongside other tradespeople - without the special safeguards or physical distance required for fixed lift-assist equipment.
Robotic benefits to the construction industry
In tight and unstructured workspaces where cranes and hoists won't fit, multiple workers typically perform team lifts to move heavy or awkwardly shaped construction materials. But that still calls upon human labor, subject to the dual constraints of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) and an ever-tightening shortage of workers.
The construction industry needs ways to address labor shortages, productivity shortfalls, injury costs, and margin-fade, and is rapidly turning to technology for answers. Mechanical exoskeletons provide comprehensive solutions to all those problems in a cost-effective, easy-to-use technology.
Benefits to users, companies, and the industry include:
Mitigates fatigue and risk of injury
Muscle strain leads to fatigue, which can lead to injury. High injury rates impose high expenses on construction companies, as demonstrated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's "Safety Pays" calculator.
Exoskeletons like the Guardian XO exoskeleton can help mitigate the risk of WMSD by reducing the strain of physically demanding lifts without interrupting surrounding workflows. And where recent health standards called for workers to socially distance, the exoskeleton can minimize or eliminate the need for team lifts that require employees to work side by side.
Does more with the same or lower labor costs
Avoiding injury and augmenting workers' strength and endurance are steps toward reducing overall labor costs and improving profit margins. The exoskeleton's labor-saving features, like embedded sensors, 24 degrees of freedom, processing power, and the robot-as-a-service model (RaaS), add up to significant multiples in productivity.
Addresses declining or stalled productivity
While labor productivity soars in manufacturing, retail, and agriculture, it has been negative in most construction sectors. With a complementary lifting tool like the Guardian XO exoskeleton, construction companies can equip their workforce with the right tool for the task, improve downtime, and enhance job site productivity.
Helps bridge labor shortages
Many construction companies face staffing problems, with four out of five firms reporting difficulty filling craft positions and two out of three saying it will be difficult or more difficult to hire 12 months out. In an industry that historically favors a particular body type and level of strength, the Guardian XO exoskeleton levels the playing field for smaller or aging workers. The exoskeleton augments human strength, opening more employment possibilities and allowing older, more experienced workers to remain productive longer.
Construction firms need ways to address labor shortages, productivity shortfalls, injury costs, and margin-fade. Robotic exoskeletons provide comprehensive solutions to all of those problems in a cost-effective, easy-to-use technology.
What is RaaS and how does it save money?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a study by Liberty Mutual insurance, "the economic burden of construction industry workers compensation costs brought on by WMSDs in the United States has been estimated to be more than $2 billion annually."
The good news is that the start-up costs of adopting new technology no longer need to be a barrier. The modeled cost savings of using emerging technologies like robotics shows great promise compared to the cost of worker injury claims, labor shortages, and utility outages.
Innovative business model offerings like RaaS - in which companies lease robotics through a subscription-based service model - enable companies to shift capital expenditures to operating expenses, as well.
Other advantages of RaaS include:
- Enables organizations to quickly scale up or down in response to changing market conditions and client needs
- Allows organizations of all sizes to leverage robotic technology through lower cost of entry
- Includes the convenience of ongoing maintenance, support, and software upgrades
The future workforce for construction will include human-assisted robotics, as evidenced by predictions of the global construction robots market size growing from $284.7 million in 2021 to $554.9 million by 2030. With the Guardian XO, that workforce is available now.
Leveraging more than 30 years of research and development, Sarcos makes revolutionary robotics products designed to save lives, reduce injury, and improve productivity. We are revolutionizing the future of work across private and public sectors through our line of highly mobile and dexterous robots that augment rather than replace humans.