Homemade Exoskeleton Gives Ordinary Man the Strength to Lift a Truck

Patti MayonnaiseFebruary 1, 2016938 Views
Photo Courtesy of MyCoolBin.com Photo Courtesy of MyCoolBin.com

Weighing in at a mere 140 pounds, James Hobson is a slender man. However, over the weekend, he was able to lift 10 times his own weight with the help of a super hero-like exoskeleton which he both designed and built. As an inventor, Hobson has always been a bit of a tinkerer. In fact, as a student he developed a soccer playing robot which won him a place in a national engineering contest. From there, he went on to study mechanical systems engineering in college before progressing to design gigs with Athena Automation in Toronto.
An intriguing hobby, Hobson says he loved trying to recreate the neat gadgets he’d find in comic books and movies. (On a side note, he has a ridiculously cool set of Wolverine claws.) This is what led him to his work on the exoskeleton, a mobile wearable machine that can enhance the wearer’s physical abilities. First building an upper body exoskeleton a couple of years ago, it offered him the ability to lift twice his body weight.


Photo Credit: Kitchener.ctvnews.ca

Photo Credit: Kitchener.ctvnews.ca

Unfortunately, the original upper body design still forced his body to bear a large brunt of the weight in his back and legs. “It was like wearing a backpack that weighed 300 pounds. So that’s when we went back to the drawing board and started from the ground up.”
Since then, he has developed a lower body exoskeleton similar to an external frame of hardened steel which straps to the legs. As the joints on the frame lock in place, the frame bears the load and allows the wearer to lift weights significantly heavier than they could normally. For obvious reasons, his work is gaining recognition. A German television crew recently shot him using the machine to pick up a small car and the Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” is set to film him lifting a truck weighing approximately 680kg today.


Image via CTVnews.ca

Image via CTVnews.ca

Costing a mere $1,000 to create utilizing readily available parts like pneumatic cylinders, a compact compressor and steel ratchets, Hobson says it’s not that uncomfortable. “You can run in it. It’s actually not too bad to move around in.” His ultimate dream is to develop an exoskeleton that is adaptable and mobile enough for medical technology use or even in search and rescue operations.
The current design weighs about 40 pounds and may very well have medical applications for those with nerve damage or muscle atrophy. Perpetually seeking sponsors to fund his efforts, Hobson states, “Right now, I’m mostly messing around with research and development. It’s still a big learning process.” The inventor adds, “It’s fun. My biggest constraint is having enough time to try out all the ideas I have.”

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