Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ship Building Moves in Next Century with Latest Technology for Constructing Freight Fleets

Iron Man or Aliens - Who Wouldn't Want a Robotic Suit?
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH KOREA – Many a little (and not so little) child dreams of possessing superpowers, and for most it remains just that, a ridiculous dream. Every year we hear tales of scientists seeking to create invisibility cloaks and such like but now there are people out there currently working on creating a way to give any normally proportioned human Herculean strength. The Iron Man concept could be one step closer with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) trialling a special, wearable robotic suit designed specifically for lifting heavy objects with minimal effort to aid the construction of a variety of items, particularly freight and passenger ships.

The trial took place last year at DSME’s Okpo-Dong facility with suits available for anyone between 5ft 2in and 6ft (160 and 185 cm). The engineering team responsible for the suit focused on whether the wearable robot is applicable to rough and tough shipbuilding environments which include bumpy and sloped metal terrain, steep and narrow staircases etc. From the experimental results Daewoo verified that the wearable robot suit could be helpful for assisting workers in several shipbuilding tasks. An assessment was also made as to what should be improved for the application to be more successful based on the individual worker’s requirements.

The team has developed two types of wearable robot suits that can be differentiated by the actuation mechanism in place; one uses electric motors and the other uses electro-hydraulic actuators. The lifting capacity of both robot suits is currently about 66 lbs (30kg) with approximately 3 hours of battery life. At 62 lbs (28kg), the suit itself is not much lighter than its current lifting capacity, but the engineers plan to increase its target to about 220 lbs (100 kg). Tests were performed in 7 kinds of workplaces for handling and installation of heavy-weight objects such as pipeline outfitting components, small metal components, and heat insulation boxes, for a span of two weeks.

If introduced, the suit could mean dramatic changes in DSMEs workforce with fewer injuries in relation to strain and increase efficiency and work flow. It might even bring more job opportunities, with regular maintenance needed to ensure that the suits are kept in good order.

The suit itself is not the most stylish around (according to our ‘fashion experts’) but can we all just agree that DSME should just do away with any pretence and cover the exoskeleton in a graphene-carbon fibre, order a red and gold paint job, and top it all off with some strategically placed light sources in the hands and chest with a little bit of illumination around the eyes. They might find a whole new source of revenue from those little boys out there.

Photo: The inimitable Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens ‘Power Loader’.