Lockheed Martin Fortis Exo Skeleton | 2014 Icon Award| ROBRADY design
Lockheed Martin

FORTIS Human-Powered Exoskeleton

Redefining the Power Suit

A naval shipbuilder may be required to wield a grinding or cutting tool that weighs more than 30 pounds—and that’s just gravity. Factor in the torque generated from operating that machinery and the Metabolic Burn Rate—the key factor in fatigue—becomes so high, that workers can only perform their tasks for minutes at a time. That is, until they “suit up” with an exoskeleton like FORTIS that dramatically enhances endurance and strength. Such technology isn’t a figment of Tony Stark’s imagination; everyday heroes like those building our navy can use FORTIS to accomplish tasks too demanding to perform under normal circumstances.

Lockheed Martin, a leader in exoskeleton technology, developed FORTIS as a human-powered system to reduce MBR by literally taking the weight of shipbuilders’ tools off their shoulders and transferring it to the ground. And when it came time to design and develop the innovative exo-suit, Lockheed sought a partner for the mission. ROBRADY design had the creativity, industrial and mechanical design expertise, rapid prototyping capabilities, and production acumen needed. ROBRADY delivered refinements to FORTIS that enhance human biomechanics to an unprecedented level: Muscle fatigue reduced up to 300 percent. Strength increased so that workers can lift and operate machinery up to 36 pounds with no more effort than it takes to raise their arms. What’s more, they did it with superhuman speed.

A Creative Solution, Firmly Grounded

To meet the objectives, the studio approached FORTIS from the ground up with a “Whole to the Parts to the Whole” perspective. Not only were critical parts such as the foot, knee, and hip joints examined and refined, but also the dynamics between these parts as they functioned together as an integrated unit to compliment the user at work and in motion.

Among the first elements refined was the foot area. Previous exoskeletons featured large plates for users to stand on to assure load transfer. This foundation was an ergonomic challenge for workers moving on varied surfaces and climbing ladders. FORTIS’s design resolved this issue by putting workers’ feet firmly back on the ground where the body’s constant adjustments to terrain once again gave workers sure and natural footing in their environment.

Putting the Bio in Biomechanics

Going further, ROBRADY then considered how the exoskeleton functioned in concert with its most important component: the human being. The studio’s commitment to humanizing technology infused FORTIS with ergonomic and environmental refinements that are distinct in exoskeleton design. FORTIS’ lightweight and rugged frame gives users the ability to “suit up” without assistance and get to work with virtually no learning curve. The suit can easily be adjusted to the height and handedness of various workers and removed quickly and safely in the event of emergency.

Yet, for all the ergonomic refinements, FORTIS makes no compromises on performance. The human powered suit saves energy and significantly lowers MBR , which extends productivity work rates by 2 to 27 times.

3D Printing: Making the Impossible Possible

Just as FORTIS enhances human capability, ROBRADY’s 3D printing enhanced the studio’s capability, namely, delivering fabricated parts for product testing on a daily basis.

The time frame for the FORTIS refinements wasn’t just tight; in most cases the necessary development and evaluation time would have made it unachievable. Yet, with ROBRADY’s capacity to take a design from image to object overnight, designers were able to perform real-world tests and make real-world refinements in record time. 3D printing accelerates the iterative process between designers and engineers to such a degree that ROBRADY isn’t just saving time and cost savings, it is redefining design possibilities in industrial, commercial, medical, and consumer applications.

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