Panasonic power-assist robot suit.

Panasonic Corp. subsidiary Activelink Co. has reduced the weight of its power-assist robot suit by 30%, with plans to begin volume sales of the device in 2017.

The suit helps the wearer lift heavy objects and carry out other tasks requiring strength. Activelink envisions the device being used in a wide range of settings, including factories, farms and disaster sites.

The recently developed prototype weighs around 30kg and is easy to use. In order to scale back the number of components in it, the company created a design that covers the back and shoulders. By operating a handheld part linked by wires to the part on the shoulders, users can easily lift items weighing 30kg. The motor has been made lighter by reducing the number of parts, which will also help lower production costs.

Launched in 2003 as an in-house start-up at Panasonic, Activelink has developed a number of power-assist devices. In March, Mitsui & Co. took a 20% stake in the company. Activelink is hurrying to commercialize power-assist devices with an eye on the growing elderly population.

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