Sarasota, FL, June 3, 2016 — As defense contractors, the manufacturers at Lockheed Martin aren’t known for making pretty things. But thanks to work done by Sarasota design firm Robrady, the acclaimed Fortis exoskeleton now boasts a Good Design Award. Indeed, the futuristic device has become one of the most honored and acclaimed products ever designed in the ROBRADY workshop. “People are captivated by exoskeletons to begin with,” says ROBRADY founder Rob Brady. “You see them in Hollywood but this is real.” The exoskeleton was just one of the products designed in ROBRADY’s fabrication shop that was bestowed a Good Design Award this year. The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies awarded two trophies to the Sarasota firm this year, something that boosts the reputation of both the local company and the originator of the product. Here’s a look at the winning toys.
The Fortis may not look exactly like a robot suit from Pacific Rim,but Brady says the design actually proves to be far more efficient than anything dreamed up in an animation studio or prop shop. “In sci-fi flicks, we see these things as mechanical elements with all kinds of armaments,” he says. “We don’t see them in a realistic form.” In contrast, the exoskeleton looks like a light frame worn by a user, and its spring-loaded arms provide the strength of a Lex Luther-type super suit with none of the bulk.And best of all, the product is human-powered. “It’s all done without any electronics, sensors or hydraulics,” he says. Instead of relying on a battery or another power source, the device simply amplifies the force provided by a human being—enough so that lifting 30-pound crates or pieces of equipment feels like working in a zero-gravity environment. Not bad for a suit weighing just 25 pounds distributed around the whole body. And if you wonder where the shoulder cannon goes, note this product, while commissioned for the US military, was made for support workers building aircraft and managing infrastructure at bases, not for a band of exo-suited super soldiers. The suit, in addition to winning the recent Good Design Award, also has been featured in specials by National Geographic and CNNMoney.
Earthlinked Geothermal Heating
In another tribute to building power without burning energy, EarthLinked developed a special heat source that draws its energy from the warmth of the earth. When the manufacturer developed this especially useful product, higher-ups decided it should be something that looked as high quality as the heat it captured. “You don’t want to take this tech out of the box and have it look like it came out of 1950,” Brady says. So ROBRADY designers created a modern box with an aesthetically thick shell to contain the mechanics of the power source itself. Special access points were developed for both the everyday user and for professional maintenance, the latter of whom would need to get to every internal part. “We want a look that will be good in the marketplace, but that also looks at maintenance and assembly,” he says. Brady feels the product demonstrates the importance of design by creating a piece that can be displayed in plain view, as opposed to traditional power supplies that get hidden in backyards and basements.
Safety and security remain top priorities in the design process, but so does ease of use while ensuring designers won’t create products too expensive to make. “If the per unit cost is exorbitant, it will never see the light of day,” he says. Brady stresses that anyone dismissing design as a style point misses the overall purpose completely. “We call it humanizing,” he says. “We take into account how people like to work.”
This article was originally published in SRQ Magazine. View the article here.