Advancements of both the science of human augmentation and the engineering of advanced exoskeletons have already demonstrated benefits in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where the technology proved to increase productivity and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries across a range of heavy industrial occupations. The focus of the industrial Human Augmentation System is to dramatically increase productivity across a broad range of tasks, protect the human from musculoskeletal injuries, and reduce the cost to manufacture the system. This forum will highlight human assistive technologies and several of their applications within the DoD, and will also look at some potential applications for sustainment and maintenance operations.
1300-1305: Welcome – Ray Langlais (OSD-MR) Presentation
1305-1309: Administrative Notes – Debbie Lilu (NCMS)
1309-1340: Human Assistive Technologies – Aaron Clark (NUWC KPT) and Ron Zmijewski (PSNS&IMF) Presentation
1340-1405: Norfolk Naval Shipyard & SARCOS Robotic Systems – Dale Berkley (NNSY) Presentation
1405-1430: Multifunctional Automated Repair System (MARS) – Tony Naccarelli and Dr. Tim Eden (PSU)
1430-1455: Cobots for Sustainment & Maintenance Applications – Arnold Kravitz (ARM Institute) Presentation
1455-1500: Wrap-Up – Ray Langlais (OSD-MR) Presentation
Event: On 29 June 2021, the Joint Technology Exchange Group (JTEG), in coordination with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), hosted a virtual forum on “Ergonomics & Exoskeletons”.
Purpose: The purpose of this forum was to examine and share information on ergonomic and exoskeleton innovations available or having potential in the DoD maintenance community. The forum provided descriptions of the benefits of these systems to include worker safety and more efficient operations, and also discussed several of these capabilities being used by the military Services as well as a few currently being demonstrated..
Welcome: Ray Langlais (OSD-MR/LMI) welcomed everyone to the forum and thanked the presenters and all the listeners for their attendance. He also stated how important ergonomics and exoskeletons are in supporting continuous sustainment operations and readiness in the DoD maintenance community and how their development within DoD is progressing.
Administrative: This was an open forum. The presentations, along with questions and answers, were conducted through Adobe Connect. All but one of the presentations were available online during the forum at the JTEG website: http://jteg.ncms.org/ . A separate audio line was used. We had close to 60 participants from across DOD, industry, and academia join in the forum.
Human Assistive Technologies – Aaron Clark (NUWC KPT) provided an overview of ergonomics and human systems integration to include the key ergonomic domains, concerns, and risk factors. Ron Zmijewski (PSNS&IMF) then discussed human assistive technologies to include unpowered body exoskeletons that include back and leg support systems, and powered systems to include an “Iron Hand” to increase grip strength and whole-body powered exoskeletons. Hen then detailed their benefits and applications, while also describing the current standards development underway. He concluded with current efforts ongoing within the military Services.
Norfolk Naval Shipyard & SARCOS Robotic Systems – Dale Berkley (NNSY Tech Insertion Manager) described the NNSY and SARCOS collaboration to design, fabricate, and construct a tele-operated, dual-armed dexterous robot prototype system that would offer NNSY workers relief from tasks exposed to the elements or at risk from heights or heavy lifts. He explained the challenges of obtaining workforce acceptance of the new capabilities, and highlighted how the capability could produce substantial benefits.
Multifunctional Automated Repair System (MARS) – Tony Naccarelli (PSU) provided an overview of the MARS which provides an automated, turn-key, fully portable preparation, repair, and inspection capability for emergent facilities including forward operating bases, ships, and shipyards. 10 end effectors are being developed on quick change fittings with an automatic tool recognition capability. The full system ships in a 20 foot Conex container. MARS Demonstration #1 was completed aboard the Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division in March 2021. The next system demonstration will be performed in the Norfolk, VA area in August 2021.
Cobots for Sustainment & Maintenance Applications – Arnold Kravitz (ARM Institute) described that the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute is a strong consortium of the leading robotic OEM’s, manufacturers, integrators, tier 1 research universities’ innovators, government departments and the DOD. He explained that ARM developed robotic technology serves the full manufacturing cycle (fabricate, finish, assemble, inspect, handle) and he described several cobots and their capabilities to include lift-assist, inspection and surface preparation, and assembly while co-located with workers.
Q&A – A Q&A occurred after each briefer finished their presentation. Questions and answers will be posted on the JTEG website with these minutes.
Closing Comments: Ray Langlais thanked the presenters for their contributions and all the work being done to support ergonomic and exoskeleton developments and applications across the DoD, academia, and industry. He suggested continuing the information exchange beyond the forum and the importance of collaboration within the DoD maintenance community.
- Obtain copies of the presentations once they are approved to post to a public website, and post to the JTEG website at http://jteg.ncms.org/ .
Next JTEG Meeting: The next scheduled JTEG virtual forum is 27 July 2021, 1:00 – 3:00 pm EST. The topic is “Intermittence Testing”.
POC this action is Ray Langlais, email@example.com, (571) 633-8019
Human Assistive Technologies – Aaron Clark (NUWC KPT)
Q1. What is required to maintain these exoskeletons?
A1. Ways to structure service contracts. Also, we could lease the equipment such as SARCOS. There are only a few moving parts. We could change out some parts every 6 months. It’s not a huge expense. We have seen a high reliability at GM over a number of years. The mechanical parts are very robust.
Q2. How interchangeable are the systems?
A2. Only 10-15 minutes of re-fitting is required. Different sizes are also available. Refitting may also be required for different loads.
Q3. Do you know if anyone outside of NAVSEA are using the ESKO vest? Do you know if they stay in storage or if the artisans stand in line to get them?
A3. They are not being used as much as we would like. We have seen no large-scale adoption. Lack of awareness, and fear of something new are factors. It will take time to implement.
Norfolk Naval Shipyard & SARCOS Robotic Systems – Dale Berkley (NNSY)
Q1. What are the next steps?
A1. Once we have the prototypes and demonstrations it will show workers the benefits such as increasing safety and reducing exposure (not at the expense of replacing workers).
Multifunctional Automated Repair System (MARS) – Tony Naccarelli (PSU)
Q1. How many people does it take to set-up and operate?
A1. 50 lbs. per person. They are a 1-2 person lift. We are trying to get to one person to operate. It is also dependent on the operator’s skill level and experience. The operator may also be able to leave during the operation.
Q2. Has the Army been involved?
A2. The Army Research lab has been involved in development of the system. We haven’t gotten to an Army Depot yet. We have shown the concept, but received no detailed inquiries.
Q3. What end effectors can be used?
A3. It depends on the surface being worked on, but some we have used include:
- High Definition Video Cameras (LIDAR Scanners)
- Dynamic Surface Scanners
- Paint Removal / Plasma blast
- Laser Ablation
- Grit Blasting
- Eddie Current & Ultrasonic Heads
Q4. What are the first steps required to set-up the robot for a job?
A4. Touch 2 points on the surface and the robot measures the surface between the points. The robot does have an edge sensor.
Cobots for Sustainment & Maintenance Applications – Arnold Kravitz (ARM Institute)
Q1. What about OSHA requirements?
A1. OSHA requirements are reflected in the standard.
Q2. How close can the Cobots be positioned to workers?
A2. Cobots can position themselves right next to a person. As an example, the sanding robot can operate in the same proximity as a worker but will stop when it gets too close.