Australian Design Student Creates An Exoskeleton For Firefighters

As a general rule, firefighters are incredibly fit, but their protective clothing, breathing apparatus and other equipment can tip the scales at a hefty 40kg. Monash University student Ken Chen, who is studying his master's degree in design, has created a concept for an exoskeleton that helps firefighters carry a heavy load and fight fire effectively at the same time.

The A.F.A Exoskeleton Suit — that stands for Advanced Firefighting Apparatus — is rated for loads of up to 91kg, which would let firefighters double the load they carry while letting them move around easily. There's no working prototype, but a scale model exists.

There are a few military and industrial exoskeletons in working and concept form around the world, but Chen has focused attention on firefighting after reading about a 2010 Shanghai high-rise apartment fire that killed 58 people.

The huge advantage that a weight-enhancing and distributing exoskeleton offers is in its ability to assist a firefighter in carrying heavy loads, including incapacitated people who have suffered from smoke inhalation. There are some great renders of the A.F.A kit over on Behance, where Chen has detailed its potential and the challenges it has to overcome. [Behance via Discovery]

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    It would have to be worn under the outfit, it would melt and the oil or any liquids in the unit would boil and explode.... major testing would be needed

    When you say 'created a concept', I presume that means it is a functional as the 'scuba breath' (i.e. not at all)? I mean, I don't see 'mechanical engineering' listed on the Masters of Design page for Monash.

    Last edited 28/05/14 12:46 pm

      Well, sure -- that's what a concept is.

        Yeah. There is just an unfortunate tendency (I think) for people to mistake concepts for prototypes, or even pre-prototype designs which include some plausible engineering content. The reason I pointed to the 'scuba breath' was because that was what happened in that case.

        Even the line There’s no working prototype, but a scale model exists. makes it sound (to me) like the scale model at least uses materials that would plausibly be used in the final product and maybe even includes a power source and some actuators.
        In contrast, it seems like the 'scale model' here is a scale model in the same way this 1/12 Ford Shelby GT500 model is; pretty, but representative only visually.

      I hate to be that guy but as an engineer... this is what's wrong with "industrial design"
      Engineers hate "designers" because they make the pretty things that look great on paper and in presentations, get the funding, make promises that ultimately will never be fulfilled.

      The concept looks fantastic but there's a clear misunderstanding regarding how motors and batteries work. That alone makes this a pretty design project and nothing more.

      As a side note, various military companies have been working on powered exo-skeletons for a very long time. None have ever been field ready, mainly due to the huge power requirements to augment human strength.

    And then I realised that the Discovery article referred to a page on Yanko Designs, the very site that presented the scuba breath.

    I think I'll go 'design' a 15-foot lifesaving robot that can put out fires, detect survivors under 20 feet of rubble after earthquakes and save them with robotic snakes, and run off an integrated nuclear power facility.

    Sorry, no cigar. Too long to put on, would likely interfere with other equipment such as breathing apparatus, prone to catching on external obstacles, if it failed, would leave the firefighter carrying another 20kgs of weight, battery would be at risk of exposure to fire, air flow within turnout gear restricted. Need to move heavier weights? Hire more firefighters.

    As a researcher of exoskeleton, I find this design to be extremely problematic, to say the least. There are too many problems to list, but 2 major ones include:

    1. Kinematic mismatch.
    2. Lack of space for adequately performing actuators

    This ignores the well known problems of control and power.

    can u explain me which material did u used to design the afa exoskeleton,and can u give me the properties of that material.

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