Next-Gen industrial exoskeleton for workers
Exoskeletons are wearable devices, worn by a human. They are placed on the user’s body and act as amplifiers that augment, reinforce or restore human performance.
There are both powered exoskeletons, with active elements such as motors, and passive exoskeletons that work entirely mechanical. Exoskeletons can also serve for different purposes: for example in rehabilitation lower limb exoskeletons can help persons to walk again. In the industry exoskeletons reduce the loads and strains placed on the human body during physical work.
As anywhere, in a large number of companies in Flanders human operators still need to perform physically demanding tasks such as overhead working or handling weights.
Physically demanding work for the upper-body often leads to work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the body’s upper extremities (e.g., shoulders, upper limbs, and neck). As much as 50% of absenteeism of workers can be due to these type of disorders. The expected impact in terms of reducing absenteeism, improving quality of life, improving job satisfaction, improving productivity and helping companies keep their ageing workforce active are of such significant scale, that this project can contribute directly to improving the competitiveness and securing employment in Flanders. Also significant impact will be made on the social security and the Flemish robotics ecosystem by establishing this new industry in Flanders.
The industrial target groups envisaged in this proposal are all companies whose workers are dealing with sustained manipulation of heavy loads (e.g., 5 to 20 kg) and/or work in non-ergonomic poses. Typical scenarios are operators working above the head during assembly tasks, manipulating of / or reaching for parts during assembly tasks, drilling, screwing, grinding; operators carrying, lifting or moving boxes or objects. These are found in a broad range of companies as manufacturing companies, construction workers, dockworkers, farmers, luggage handlers, order pickers, delivery personnel, garbage collectors, healthcare workers (e.g., handling patients), etc..
Industrial exoskeletons are still a young technology. The first generation exoskeletons on the market today do indeed show a positive impact in for example muscular activity. More in depth studies are still needed to fully assess the long term impact of exoskeletons.
Exo4Work exoskeletons will be evaluated by Physiologists to determine the precise impact on the human body during different tasks.
Exo4Work is a research project, limited to developing only a handful of research prototypes of next-generation exoskeletons. These are not available for sale at this point.
If you are a company with activities in Flanders (Belgium) interested in exoskeletons, you can still join the Industrial User Group. Contact us to learn more.