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Strength boosting robotic Titan Arm wins James Dyson Award

A robotic arm which can boost a person's strength has won this year's James Dyson Award.

The Titan Arm was created by four mechanical engineering students from the University of Pennsylvania and is designed for use in both occupational lifting and healthcare.

"Occupational lifters such as warehouse workers face increased risk of arm and back injuries because they repeatedly lift heavy items every day," the team explains. "To prevent this, Titan augments the user's arm strength by 18 kg to reduce fatigue, and braces the back to prevent poor lifting posture."

As well as this, the exoskeleton arm can be used in the recovery of those with injuries during physical therapy and to help with mobility. It can help stroke and injury victims rebuild muscle and relearn fine motor control, whilst providing detailed data to doctors.

The students also see the product as being able to help those with permanent injuries or disabilities to provide mobility and independence.

Exoskeletons currently on the market cost over $100,000 (£62,000) to produce. Amazingly, the team built the Titan Arm for just $2000 (£1200). The students will now share the £30,000 prize between them.

"Titan Arm is obviously an ingenious design, but the team's use of modern, rapid - and relatively inexpensive - manufacturing techniques makes the project even more compelling," said Sir James Dyson.

"We are ecstatic," team member Nick Parrotta, 23, told the BBC. "It was totally unexpected - just incredible."

"We wanted Titan Arm to be affordable, as exoskeletons are rarely covered by health insurance," added Parrotta. "This informed our design decisions and the materials we used. Most structural components are machined from inexpensive aluminium."

The James Dyson award is an annual prize open to students and recent graduates in 18 countries. It was set up by the The James Dyson Foundation to encourage problem-solving inventions and inspire young people about design engineering.