SABER Military Exoskeleton

Interwoven Design working in collaboration with the Zelik Lab for Biomechanics & Assistive Technology at Vanderbilt University partnered with the U.S. Army to develop the groundbreaking SABER, a lightweight and flexible exosuit that assists soldiers with moving heavy loads. SABER stands for Soldier Assistive Bionic Exosuit for Resupply, and if it sounds futuristic, that’s because it is. Investment from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, along with funding from the Civil-Military Innovation Institute enabled this cutting-edge collaboration, which was deployed in the field in 2023.

What we did

  • Observational Field Research
  • Materials Research
  • Concept Development
  • Design Development
  • Technical Design
  • Prototyping
  • Product Testing

Clients / Collaborators

SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton

Product Description

SABER, a lightweight, low-profile exosuit, offers essential assistance to soldiers without hindering their mobility or their ability to perform operational tasks. Elastic bands stretch between comfortable shoulder straps and sleek thigh sleeves to expand muscle power, reducing muscle fatigue and muscle strain. The exosuit, engaged with a patented clutch mechanism, is designed to assist with lifting and to reduce back strain during resupply operations.

Product Description

SABER, a lightweight, low-profile exosuit, offers essential assistance to soldiers without hindering their mobility or their ability to perform operational tasks. Elastic bands stretch between comfortable shoulder straps and sleek thigh sleeves to expand muscle power, reducing muscle fatigue and muscle strain. The exosuit, engaged with a patented clutch mechanism, is designed to assist with lifting and to reduce back strain during resupply operations.

SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton

Research

Vanderbilt’s Zelik Lab initiated the project and brought the Interwoven team on board to execute the development of the soft goods and select hard good components. Using a soldier-centered approach, the team conducted observational research at Fort Campbell and focused on analyzing the tasks and movements particular to soldiers as well as their uniforms, accessories and other object they commonly interact with in the their daily routines. The Interwoven team integrated constant feedback from the 101st Airborne Division to pinpoint the user needs and understand the any resistance to adopting the new technology. The research focused on prioritizing breathability, flexibility, and a low-profile design. Interwoven conducted materials research to provide material solutions and recommend manufacturing methods that would best suit the custom use case for the U.S. Army.

Research

Vanderbilt’s Zelik Lab initiated the project and brought the Interwoven team on board to execute the development of the soft goods and select hard good components. Using a soldier-centered approach, the team conducted observational research at Fort Campbell and focused on analyzing the tasks and movements particular to soldiers as well as their uniforms, accessories and other object they commonly interact with in the their daily routines. The Interwoven team integrated constant feedback from the 101st Airborne Division to pinpoint the user needs and understand the any resistance to adopting the new technology. The research focused on prioritizing breathability, flexibility, and a low-profile design. Interwoven conducted materials research to provide material solutions and recommend manufacturing methods that would best suit the custom use case for the U.S. Army.

SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton

Design

Interwoven created concepts for the exosuit through iterative rounds of rapid prototyping. Collaborating seamlessly with the Zelik Lab, Interwoven redesigned the HeroWear Apex Exosuit to cater to the unique needs of the soldiers. The objective was to offer soldiers assistance without compromising their duties or their safety. The exosuit resembles a combination of a harness and a backpack. Straps fit snugly around the user’s shoulders and legs, and heavy duty elastic bands connect the top and bottom components. A switch engages the suit, creating the tension to activate the bands, which then act as external muscles, reducing the strain of lifting heavy objects. The solutions that emerge from the design development phase underwent continuous testing, ensuring a product that met the soldiers’ needs as well as being cost-effective and easy to use.

SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton
SABER Military Exoskeleton

Development

SABER's development focused on fabricating an exceptionally lightweight and breathable exosuit that would not result in increased heat retention for soldiers. Weighing just 2.7 pounds, the exosuit reduces muscle fatigue by alleviating over 50 pounds of back strain during every lift. The feedback from the soldiers at 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell allowed the team to make the necessary revisions to late round prototypes of SABER in-house. During field testing in May 2022, an impressive 90 percent of surveyed soldiers affirmed that the exosuit significantly improved their job performance. It was notable that all participants wanted to immediately incorporate the exoskeleton into their duties, demonstrating its potential for widespread acceptance.