New robotic suit may help nuclear cleaners

7 years ago by in Around the world

A All Japan newsese company unveiled a so-called “exoskeleton robot”, actually a suit that can be put on by people in order to make heavy protection costumes easier to wear. The invention could help nuclear specialist wear heavy anti-radiation suits in contaminated areas.

The maker of the robotic protective suit, Cyberdyne, is based northeast of Tokyo. The prototype is called Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) and can sustain tungsten vests weighing up to 60 kilograms. A possible consequence is that workers in radioactive areas, like the one near the Fukushima nuclear plant, will be able to take on longer shifts, according to Cyberdyne.

"This new type of HAL robot suit supports the weight of tungsten-made protective clothing and enables their wearers to work on the site without feeling the burden," the company said. "It is hoped that this will reduce risks of working under harsh environments and contribute to early restoration operations by humans in the wake of disasters," it added.

HAL has been in development since 1997. Cyberdyne’s founder, robotics expert Yoshiyuki Sankai, made the first public demo of the product in 2005 and began mass producing the suits in 2009 with a version destined for disabled people. The commercial version of the suit costs from $14,000 to $19,000 per suit and is now used in over 100 hospitals and welfare centers.