"The suit and I are one."

Iron Man said it first, but Ford Motor Co. (F) is taking it to a whole new level that's much more believable than the comic books.

Ford assembly line workers are now testing an upper body exoskeletal suit called EksoVest that could lessen the chance of injury or fatigue on the job, Ford said in a statement. The vest is optimized to support workers' arms and provides between five and 15 pounds of lift assistance per arm when the springs in the vest are activated.

Workers lift their arms an average of 4,600 times per day while at work, or 1 million times per year. EksoVest will help ensure that fatigue from long hours doesn't lead to worker injury by reducing the physical toll vehicle assembly has on employees.

Photo courtesy of Ford.
Photo courtesy of Ford.

"Designed and built for dynamic, real-world environments like factories, construction sites and distribution centers, the non-powered vest offers protection and support against fatigue and injury by reducing the stress and strain of high-frequency, long-duration activities that can take a toll on the body over time," Ford said.

The vest was designed and manufactured with California-based Ekso Bionics Holdings Inc. (EKSO) . EksoVest is being tested in two Ford plants in the U.S., with plans to expand testing to Europe and South America.

Photo courtesy of Ford.
Photo courtesy of Ford.

"The end result is a wearable tool that reduces the strain on a worker's body, reducing the likelihood of injury and helping them feel better at the end of the day - increasing both productivity and morale," Ekso Bionics cofounder Russ Angold said.

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