New Hilti and Festool Exoskeletons – EXO-S vs ExoActive

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Two tool brands have come out with new exoskeletons designed to reduce workers’ fatigue.

Hilti and Festool’s new exoskeletons are both designed to take the load off users’ arms, but they approach this in different ways.

The Hilti EXO-S is an unpowered solution, while the Festool ExoActive is powered by an 18V cordless power tool battery.

Hilti EXO-S Exoskeleton

Hilti never sent any press materials, but we were able to find some information from their website and influencer reviews on social media.

The Hilti EXO-S, described as a shoulder exoskeleton, weighs less than 6 pounds. I couldn’t find any information about how much weight it takes off a user’s shoulders, or if there are any limits.

This is Hilti’s second exoskeleton, and looks to be replacing the EXO-01. The EXO-S retails for $1399.

Ekso Exoskeleton Used in Mechanics Workshop
Ekso EVO Exoskeleton

Hilti’s new EXO-S exoskeleton resembles existing tech from other brands, such as Esko Bionics.

Ekso Exoskeleton Used in Construction
Ekso Exoskeleton

Esko has been around for a while, and has different exoskeletons designed for a range of user types and applications.

Levitate Airframe Exoskeleton
Levitate Technologies Exoskeleton

There are other passive exoskeleton solutions used in construction and other industries, such as by Levitate Technologies.

It’s unclear as to if and how the Hilti EXO-S is different or better than existing solutions; their influencer partners’ TikToks didn’t exactly shed light on this.

Festool Exoskeleton Backpack Side View

There is also the new Festool ExoActive exoskeleton. It’s a powered solution, hence the “active” part of the name.

Festool Exoskeleton Used Overhead

The Festool ExoActive is powered by an 18V cordless power tool battery pack.

Agade Agadexo Shoulder Powered Exoskeleton
Agade Agedexo Powered Exoskeleton

The Festool ExoActive resembles the Agade Agedexo powered exoskeleton, which was designed for manual material handling tasks.

Festool Exoskeleton Used at Mid Body Height

The ExoActive has 3 modes to adjust it for working at different heights – i) from the waist up, ii) from the chest up, and iii) overhead.

Festool Exoskeleton Electronic Controls

There’s a control pad attached to one of the shoulder straps, and Festool says they are working on making the ExoActive “individually adaptive to the respective use and requirement” via their smartphone app.

Users can also choose from 5 support settings. There is also a pause setting, such as for when the user might need to pick up a dropped screw or mix paint.

According to Festool, the ExoActive gives users “an added boost of up to 50 Newtons,” which is the “equivalent to reducing the load by approximately 5 kilograms [~11 pounds].”

It looks like the price is €2795 Euros, or a little over $3000 at the current conversion rate.

Festool USA has not provided any pricing or availability information.

Which is Better?

Exoskeletons and similar fatigue-reducing augmentations have been around for quite a few years now.

Hilti’s looks interesting, but why buy the EXO-S over existing passive exoskeleton solutions? I think it might come down to price. $1400 is a lot of money, but could make exoskeleton augmentation within reach – pun not intended – for individual users.

The Festool ExoActive looks more innovative, and is a powered solution at more than double the price.

Festool says:

[The ExoActive] is no less than a revolution for virtually all the trades in the construction industry, since, unlike the systems currently available on the market, the ExoActive exoskeleton actively supports workers under their arms to take the effort out of working on walls and ceilings.

But is it better than passive solutions such as Hilti’s?

How long does the Festool battery last, and what happens when you need to replace the battery? How often will you be reaching for the “pause” button throughout the day to perform unsupported tasks?

Exoskeletons are used in industrial settings by workers performing repetitive tasks. Construction professionals and tradesman also perform a lot about repetitive tasks, but many applications require a mix of tasks. How well do passive or active exoskeletons adapt to such motions?

Will these new exoskeletons be a good fit for users that move around and perform different tasks throughout the day?

It’s good to see brands like Hilti and Festool enter the space. Things will really get interesting when brands like Dewalt and Milwaukee join the party.

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