Bionic Power Inc. makes wearable technology for kinetic energy harvesting. The energy captured is used to charge batteries, with a current focus on military applications. In 2017-2018 the US Marine Corps, US Army and Canadian Forces are all field testing units.
While with BPI in 2015-2017, my responsibilities were centered around the interface between the wearer and the Harvester: between the rigid mechanical device and a squishy human. Making sure the Harvester fit comfortably while being efficiently coupled to the leg for maximum power transmission were diametrically opposed missions, so it was a constant battle to find the middle ground. The power generated increased by 10% simply due to my second generation design of subshells and straps. I used US Army 2D and 3D anthropometric surveys to determine the sizing for the Harvesters and the amount of adjustability needed. The three sizes comfortably fit 5-95th percentile male US soldiers and 15-99th percentile female soldiers.
The requirements were complex and multi-faceted. As soldiers already carry way too much weight in the field, we were very weight conscious and this had to be taken into account on every design decision. The device cannot impede a soldier’s movements, and must be able to be removed in a few seconds. The integrated knee pads seem to be more comfortable than ones in current use, as they do not wrap around behind the knee. Materials research and constant product testing were large parts of designing and developing two generations of flexible subshells, the straps and custom buckles. Even the dual-side release buckles had to be custom, as we could not allow the webbing to slip out at all during a firefight, they needed to be able to be used with gloves and we needed as small a footprint as possible.