The current Robotics limelight tends to focus on the ability of new
innovations to automate tasks, but a less publicized development is
taking place whereby passive exoskeletons have been slowly deployed and
adopted to help augment the capability of human workers. Exoskeleton
popularization through passive suits will provide a base for increased
resources for powered suits, which will eventually provide significant
augmentative capability to the industrial workforce. By 2028, global
Exoskeleton revenues will reach US$5 billion with hundreds of thousands
of active exoskeletons being deployed, according to ABI Research,
a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the
most compelling transformative technologies.
The greatest opportunity for the exoskeleton lies in augmenting
industrial production workers. Though only a small number of
exoskeletons have enjoyed commercial success, their potential is
attracting the attention of end users as NASA, Boeing, Toyota, GM as
well as those in the logistics space.
‘We are only talking about thousands of units being deployed so far, and
the majority of these are passive. The first challenge of getting
exoskeletons deployed and mandated as part of protective equipment
practices in high-wage OEMs has been achieved. The next challenge for
powered suits to gain popularity is the effective deployment of IoT
platforms that can aggregate sensory data from the exoskeletons and
provide insights,” said Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.
“The next stage is to integrate the use of exoskeletons with robotic
arms, collaborative robots, and mobile robots through advanced location
technologies, haptics, and gesture control.” This is a long-term vision,
and the industry should not expect the exoskeleton opportunity to exceed
hundreds of thousands of units or billions in revenue within the next
2-3 years, with the global market to surpass US$ 1 billion in 2022.
In one case of deployment, Levitate Technologies, a California-based
manufacturer, has already deployed hundreds of suits in Toyota plants
across the United States and has had their equipment mandated as
protective equipment. This is further testament to the rapid deployment
of passive suits, which are not only currently more cost-efficient, but
also more limited than their robotic counterparts. Two major powered
exoskeleton suppliers, German Bionic Systems and Sarcos, are making
their first plays in the market. GBS has developed an IoT platform and
will ramp up production next year with the completion of their new
factory, and Sarcos is beginning to test its heavy exoskeleton in
military infrastructure through a slew of contracts with the U.S.
government. The Japanese market is thriving through companies like
Cyberdyne and Panasonic Atoun, while the opportunity presented by China
is still in its infancy.
Though the exoskeleton industry holds great promise, a few PoCs using
mainly passive suits do not automatically guarantee future success.
Simply deploying these expensive and highly sophisticated pieces of
hardware will be insufficient to meet the challenges of labor shortages
and aging workforces, as most of the value bundled up in the
technologies of future manufacturing will require the advanced use of
data and monitoring of devices. “In the industrial internet of things,
suits cannot be dumb. Thus, there must be a viable business model,
increasing adoption of RaaS, and a demonstrable ability of both
providers and end-users to draw insights from collected data.
Establishing partnerships with the cloud providers and industrial
platforms who will ultimately enable the value add-on needed to
differentiate providers will also be key. Furthermore, organizations
like the association for exoskeleton industries (VDEI)
are important for developing standardization when it comes to best
practices,” Whitton concluded.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Exoskeletons
for Industrial Use Cases application analysis report. This report is
part of the company’s Industrial,
Collaborative & Commercial Robotics research service, which
includes research, data, and Executive Foresights. Based on
extensive primary interviews, Application
Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and
factors for a specific application, which could focus on an individual
market or geography.
About ABI Research
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