The first time you see Iron Man’s suit, or Ripley stepping into that high-tech construction exoskeleton in Aliens, your mind tends to ponder the question of using some sort of robotic apparatus to gain increased strength. Now, some engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania have come up with a portable, wearable robotic arm that can help users boost their lifting power by about 40 lbs.
The device is targeted at people who need physical therapy, or others (like the elderly) who could benefit from assistance with lifting everyday objects.
“When we started talking to physical therapists and prospective users, or people who have gone through these types of injuries, we just kept on getting more and more motivated,” said Nick Parrotta, who designed the arm along with Elizabeth Beattie, Nick McGill and Niko Vladimirov.
The students created virtual models of the Titan Arm and used 3D printing for the early design. The mostly aluminum unit costs less than $2,000 and weighs 18 lbs. A joystick controls the motorized cables that move the arm. There are also sensors that can measure range of motion for rehabilitation applications. You can see detailed photos here.
The design won the Intel Cornell Cup USA $10,000 prize, as well as $65,000 via the James Dyson Award.