Ford employees wear the similar Ekso Bionics EksoVest at the Flat Rock and Wayne, Michigan, plants.
Both the Airframe and the EksoVest are passive exoskeletons that rely on springs to comfortably add up to 15 pounds per arm of overhead lifting assistance. (Ekso Bionics and others offer electrically powered exoskeletons for medical and military purposes.) Per-unit costs range from approximately $4000 to $6000 for the devices. That’s steep, but automakers think exoskeletons will offer long-term savings by cutting down on injuries from repetitive stress, thus keeping workers on the job.