Titan Arm, a battery powered upper-body robotic arm which instantly increases human strength, has won the 2013 James Dyson Award. Augmenting arm strength by forty pounds, Titan Arm helps rehabilitate people with back injuries, allowing them to rebuild muscle and relearn motor control. The exoskeleton technology also aids those lifting objects as part of their daily work, particularly in construction or delivery-driven positions.
According to the United States Department of Labor, manual transporting is the main cause of injuries in the American work force, and four out of five of these injuries will affect the lower back. Combined, upper body injuries cost the US approximately $50 billion annually.
A team of mechanical engineering students from the University of Pennsylvania spent eight months creating Titan Arm. Their $45,000 prize will fund further development, testing and, ultimately, commercialization. The team aims to tailor-fit the arm to specific users with the latest 3D printing techniques. The University of Pennsylvania will receive a further $16,000 from the James Dyson Foundation to invest in rapid prototyping equipment.
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 Titan Arm prototype cost $2,000 to produce, a significant cost reduction compared to similar exoskeletons that are currently upwards of $100,000. The Titan Arm team hopes to eventually market the suit commercially for less than $10,000.
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 aluminum.”