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Apex Suit

Working at a warehouse is not a job for the weak. With the long 12-hour shifts, a hot work environment, and constant strain on the lower back from bending and lifting – the workers leave their job tired and often in pain.

The Apex Suit is a lightweight, agile, and modular back-assist exoskeleton geared for warehouse workers to reduce lower back muscle fatigue in the workplace. The Apex accommodates bodies of all shapes, sizes and gender, mirroring the diverse warehouse teams across the logistics industry.

What we did

  • Design Research
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Materials Research
  • Sourcing
  • Branding
  • Packaging Design
  • Technical Design
  • Prototyping and Sampling
  • Manufacturing Assistance
  • Small Volume Production

Clients / Collaborators

Product Description

A group from Vanderbilt’s Center for Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology developed a proof-of-concept prototype for a mechanical exoskeleton that could alleviate strain on the lower back for workers. They approached Interwoven Design Group to design and develop their technology into a fully commercialized product - the patented Apex suit.

The innovations introduced in the Apex include comfort (modular fit system, large range of motion and strength adjustability), mechanical design (efficient cost, manufacturability and easy maintenance) and a garment-based system (body heat management, easy to don and doff and easy to clean.)

Design Process

Using an evidence-based approach, we visited warehouses to gather demographics and log worker movements to determine the core features needed: breathability, lightweight, mobility and a low-profile design. Furthermore, we determined best locations on the body to place the hardware so the device would have maximum comfort and a full range of motion.

Then through multiple rounds of ideation and rapid prototyping, Interwoven designed and prototyped the garment and mechanical hardware components to achieve an easy-to-use, reliable and manufacturable product.

Development

Aesthetically, our approach was to introduce the Apex suit through an easy-to-understand backpack-like design that allows for a personalized fit. We observed during our site visits that early stage worker acceptance would be an essential hurdle to overcome and focusing on worker comfort and individuality would be key.

The test results indicate that initial prototypes “reduced erector spinae muscle activity by an average range of 14 to 43 percent.” When in use, it can help reduce more than 50 pounds of strain off the lower back. Fatigue of lumbar muscles has been found to be reduced by 26-87%.

Branding & Packaging

In addition to designing the product, Interwoven also developed the initial brand strategy and packaging for both the fit kit and the product in preparation for the product launch.

The HeroWear team wanted a travel case to showcase the product to potential business customers as well as the workers who would be wearing the Apex Suit. The “Fit Kit”, which houses all the different parts in all the sizes, allows for on-site fittings and easy ordering.