The Association That’s Helping to Build the Future of Exoskeletons

ASTM International is supporting the creation of a center of excellence that will help nurture standards for exoskeletons, a field where potential is high but standards unformed.

In case you were looking for some fresh evidence that we’re already living in the future, a new initiative from ASTM International might just offer all you need.

The standards body recently revealed that it was working on building global standards for exoskeletons, essentially wearable machines that extend what a person can do—for example, lifting heavy objects that would be impossible for an individual to lift up on their own. Such technology is innovative and potentially game-changing in fields like construction, medicine, and manufacturing, but a lack of comprehensive standards has limited its reach.

As Roger Bostelman of the National Institute of Standards and Technology put it, according to Forbes, “Sometimes people are talking about the same thing using different terms, and other times people are using the same term but mean different things.”

This is where ASTM International comes into play. Since 2017, the organization has managed a committee on exoskeletons and exosuits, and last month, it announced that it would fund the creation of a center of excellence that would help develop a set of official standards for the wearable electronics.

The center of excellence is said to be a major initiative by the group, which will spend $1.25 million over the next five years to support the endeavor, with the goal of turning the center into a major hub for research, education, and training. In a news release, ASTM International President Katharine Morgan said it would leverage the roughly 150 members of the exoskeleton committee—including major firms such as Boeing and BMW and an array of startups—to help strengthen the center’s work.

“Now is the right time to create a hub of collaboration among startups, companies, and other entities that are exploring how exoskeletons could support factory workers, patients, the military, and many other people,” Morgan said. “We look forward to this new center serving as a catalyst for game-changing R&D, standardization, related training, partnerships, and other efforts that help the world benefit from this exciting new technology.”

The association is accepting proposals through July 29 to help support the creation of a hub for the center of excellence.

(UnitoneVector/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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