Advanced body tracking technology commonly used by athletes to improve their performance is now being deployed at a Ford engine assembly facility in Spain. In a collaboration with the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, Ford developed special suits with embedded sensors. The suits are to be worn by 70 employees in 21 work areas as part of a company initiative to improve worker posture and enhance safety. Data from the motion tracking system will be used to inform the design of less physically stressful workstations to benefit manufacturing quality.
Fifteen movement tracking light sensors in each suit are connected to a wireless detection unit. Four motion-tracking cameras, similar to the devices associated with computer game consoles, are trained on each employee to monitor work movements, with special attention given to upper body motion. A 3D skeletal character animation of the user is evaluated by ergonomists to help workers better align their posture. New workstations are designed on the basis of employee height and other measurements to improve workflows and personnel safety.
The Ford designers were inspired by a suit displayed at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement. The technology has now moved to the assembly line where production of the new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-liter EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.
The company is considering introducing the body tracking technology in its other European manufacturing facilities.