Another Approach

Dec. 21, 2004

GM is studying to alleviate ergonomic stress that impairs the performance of its line workers. Another example is the Human Power Extender developed by Homayoon Kazerooni, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. His intelligent-assist tools amplify the force a worker exerts in lifting and moving objects. Last summer GM evaluated the concept to lift and maneuver batteries into automobiles. The extender is programmed to provide automatically a large percentage of the total lift force needed, with a smaller residual load intended to give the operator a feel for the movement of the total load. The correct amount of power to add is calculated instantaneously on the extenders computer. With Power Extenders, a worker can manipulate heavy objects as easily and naturally as a light object, says Kazerooni. The load-sharing feature is essential for ergonomically correct lifting, he says. Operation is user-friendly with no need to manipulate pushbuttons, keyboards, switches, or valves. In addition to an electric model, Kazerooni offers a pneumatic extender module that can be installed on pneumatic manual material-handling devices.

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