HMT, the French startup that wants to democratize exoskeletons
The technicians at Enedis in Hautes-Pyrénées have been looking a little bigger than usual for 2 years. This is because they experience wearing an exoskeleton. An exoskeleton supposed to relieve these workers who often carry loads of more than 10 kilos with poles 2 meters high. All under power lines. In particular, the device relieves the neck, shoulders and neck of employees.
With a mechanism mainly supporting arms and shoulders motion. This exoskeleton is made in France, marketed by a start-up based in Tarbes (Occitanie ) HMT, a company created in 2017 by 6 former engineering students from the city. Two years later, it boasts of marketing more than 300 exoskeletons per year.
Its products mainly targeting the needs of professionals, this Tarbaise nugget aims to democratize access to exoskeletons. With, in focus, the development of a new low-cost model, using crowdfunding. Spotlight on this Tarbaise nugget which relieves workers in many sectors in France and which has not stopped growing.
Be ambitious by helping professionals
HMT (Human Mecanical Technologies) was therefore founded in Tarbes in 2017. The following year, the startup already won first prize in the Health and Safety category of a national start-up competition organized by Enedis (The company in charge of managing public electricity distribution network for 95% of continental France). Today, the company produces hundreds of exoskeletons per year for many industries.
“We work in all sectors of France. Whether in energy, in the food industry, in industry, in construction,” said Kevin Regi, Chairman and CEO. But the Tarbes would like to go even further. As they know, the main obstacles to the democratization of exoskeletons remain training and especially costs.
The cost of manufacturing a device is between 5,000 and 6,000 euros. The company wants to launch Moon, a much lighter exoskeleton and also much cheaper.
Funding for the Moon exoskeleton
Kevin Regi would like to market his exoskeleton at a price of … 200 euros. To launch its project, the startup called on a crowdfunding campaign. The sum of 10,000 euros is necessary for them to ensure the launch of Moon “on the moon”.
For the President of the startup, crowdfunding is also a way to reach new people with exoskeletons.
“This campaign will allow us to test the market. We want to benefit from feedback from different trades. We have local contacts who are interested, painters, rope access technicians, mechanics … It is to them that we want to turn around to create interaction,” he explains.
HMT is therefore targeting new professions and local interaction with its future customers. And to do this, it also counts on the very positive recommendations of current users.
“These exoskeletons help professionals with load weights at arm’s length. This promotes prevention and avoids musculoskeletal disorders,” said Philippe Berardo, regional director for Enedis Hautes-Pyrénées.
Although it had warned about the need for general improvement of models and training, the European Union had been clear on the subject. Exoskeletons are the number 1 avenue to fight against musculoskeletal disorders.
There are hurdles to overcome, but companies like HMT are already looking at the world from the ground up. A world in which all professions requiring load carrying or repetitive movements can benefit from an exoskeleton. In short, a world without musculoskeletal disorders. For HMT, this is a dream that will come true very soon.