Products & Services for

The right exoskeletons for your application

Exoskeletons: prevention instead of aftercare

What are exoskeletons and how do they work?

Exoskeletons are modelled on nature

The term exo-skeleton (exo= outside) is understood as a supporting structure for an organism (for the endo-skeleton = inside). In the animal world, the exoskeleton is often fused as part of the body and protects it from enemies, for example.
The term "exoskeleton" is now widely used and is often associated with robot-like suits and superpowers. The assistance systems are often overestimated or underestimated by their admirers and critics. However, the point is not that a person gains superhuman abilities through exoskeletons, but that they can make their work easier.


Contact us for more information

Meaning of the exoskeleton: worn support structure for particularly stressed body regions

Exoskeletons are support structures worn on the body that provide electrical or mechanical support. Exoskeletons support particularly stressed areas of the body by either exerting controlled tensile or compressive forces on the body via physical interfaces, thereby redistributing loads on the body, or by absorbing external forces from the support structure and transferring them along the human body into the ground.

Routine work can be carried out more comfortably thanks to the support function. For example, they are used in the field of medical integration management to support people with restricted mobility, making everyday tasks easier and improving motor skills.

The main types of exoskeletons

Passive and active exoskeletons

The passive exoskeleton is mainly used in areas where the aim is to improve posture or provide light support for specific areas of the body. In particular, they are used before, i.e. preventively, incorrect loading of employees. The passive exoskeleton works with mechanical springs, gas pressure springs, elastic straps or very rarely with switchable functions. They absorb loads and convert them into energy, which can be utilised positively for the activity.

The active exoskeleton offers the user active support, as the name suggests. Here, the functionality is provided by electrical impulses or pneumatic drive functions and the respective strength of these impulses is adjustable. The user often requires battery capacity for the active systems. The movement steps can be controlled via muscle tension, which is recorded by sensors. Alternatively, they can also be controlled via a control console.

Reduce absenteeism and relieve employees with "prevention instead of aftercare"

Classic occupational diseases

Considering the current AU figures with musculoskeletal disorders, personal measures such as exoskeletons can be seen as a beacon of hope. 22.6% of all sick days can be attributed to these illnesses, according to the German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung).

Where technical and organisational measures are not possible to relieve the strain on the back and other stressed areas of the body, exoskeletons could provide relief as a personal measure. Wherever automation reaches its limits.

Other issues such as demographic and social change, increasing global competition and the shortage of skilled labour present companies with complex challenges. This is often compounded by employee dissatisfaction in the workplace. Here, the use of exoskeletons can be a promising solution, for example for production and logistics workplaces with high physical strain.
 

In line with the motto "Prevention instead of aftercare", exoskeletons can be used preventively, i.e. before sickness rates and dissatisfied employees arise. When researching and selecting systems, it should be noted that technical and/or organisational measures must always be examined first. Only if these are inadequate or unrealisable should you consider the topic of exoskeletons and alternatives.

Exoskeletons help with prevention
Exoskeletons help with prevention
Exoskeletons help with prevention

In general, the aim should be to protect healthy employees from complaints and illnesses (primary prevention). Employees with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) who should be prevented from aggravating or manifesting an illness or who should be able to participate in occupational activities again.

Discover Carl Stahl's exoskeletons

Example workstations for the use of exoskeletons

Logistics area

In the areas of picking, wholesale, warehouse logistics and dispatch warehouses, large goods and heavy loads are part of everyday life. Employees need to remain flexible when loading and unloading lorries or pallets. A standardised machine often does not accommodate the different load sizes. Exoskeletons can make physical work more comfortable and reduce some of the strain. Not only can you reduce the risk of injury and fatigue, but you can also increase their motivation and satisfaction, which can lead to a smoother shipping process.

 

Exoskeletons in the logistics sector
Exoskeletons in the logistics area
Exoskeletons in the logistics area

Industry

In industry, the areas of application are as diverse as the sector itself. From metal processing and mechanical engineering to the automotive industry, electrical industry, wood processing, pharmaceutical industry, food industry, commercial kitchens or tyre processors. Heavy lifting and carrying is usually part of everyday life in industry. However, exoskeletons can also be used for precision work, such as in electronics manufacturing or precision engineering, to improve the stability and precision of the hands and arms and increase accuracy. Exoskeletons can also provide additional protection and safety in hazardous environments such as mining or the petrochemical industry, where employees are confronted with hazards such as heavy objects, chemical substances or high temperatures.

 

Exoskeletons in industry
Exoskeletons in industry
Exoskeletons in industry

Construction

Heavy weights are part of the daily routine in construction. Whether drywall construction, painting and varnishing, plastering, assembly and disassembly, windows, doors, interior fittings, design work or landscaping. Skilled workers often have to lift heavy building materials, tools or equipment and manage in difficult work situations (overhead, through narrow spaces, on scaffolding or roofs or in small rooms). Exoskeletons offer flexible work support to maintain stability and balance and make carrying and working easier. The exoskeletons protect the body from joint and back injuries through prevention and ergonomic posture.

Exoskeletons on the construction site
Exoskeletons on the construction site
Exoskeletons on the construction site

Crafts, agriculture and care

In the fields of trades (e.g. painting, electrical installation, ceiling construction, furniture making, precision mechanics), agriculture (e.g. harvesting, animal husbandry, soil cultivation, horticulture) and care (e.g. physiotherapists and care services in rehabilitation, long-term care, etc.), the fact that the body is exposed to just as much strain at work as when working in construction is often overlooked. Lifting or repositioning patients, operating heavy equipment for soil cultivation or harvesting, working overhead in electrical installations or ceiling construction or precise work in the fields of precision mechanics or even jewellery manufacturing, where the stability of hands and arms is important. Exoskeletons can relieve the strain on the human body in all areas.

Exoskeletons in the trade
Exoskeletons in agriculture
Exoskeletons in care

 

No matter in which area the exoskeletons are used. They usually have one thing in common: they can relieve the strain on people and thus create not only better working conditions and fewer sick days, but also greater employee satisfaction.

Legal framework conditions for exoskeletons

Exoskeletons should generally be categorised as personal or person-related measures (source: BGHM: Exoskeletons for operational use). Due to the high degree of novelty, there is currently still a lack of legal framework regulations. The DIN standards committee (NA 023-00-08 GA Exoskeletons) has been working on developing standards at national, international and European level since 2021.

Implementation options for exoskeletons in the workplace

Workplace assessment

According to §4 ArbSchG (Occupational Health and Safety Act), hazards must be combated at their source and measures derived. When implementing exoskeletons, a risk assessment should be carried out again at the workplace.

The focus should be on people as users and therefore on their individual characteristics and skills. These include, for example, physical characteristics (e.g. body size and stature, performance depending on age and daily form, state of health) and the personal feelings and attitudes derived from these (e.g. technical affinity, self-esteem, comfort, social behaviour) as well as the work routine (e.g. natural movements, processes, work rhythm). The systematic consideration of the influencing factors of exoskeleton users is just as important as the consideration of the working environment, before their characteristics and interactions are taken up in overarching key features.

 

Resolution approaches for stressful work situations

Once the workplace situation has been assessed, you should consider the following solutions at an early stage

.
  • Maintain flexibility and independence through the use of innovative products
  • People at the centre through the integration of ergonomic solutions
  • Combining strategy and transformation - and thus remaining self-sufficient in the future
  • Quick reaction behaviour is needed right now - being able to react more quickly to changing market conditions
  • Buying into tomorrow's technologies - staying competitive

Would you like a solution for your exoskeleton requirements? Then please note:

Seek the right advice. Use test phases to find out whether the exoskeleton is the right solution and whether it will be accepted in the company. Train your staff professionally with training courses on the practical use of exoskeletons so that you always have contact persons on site who can provide good support for the individual situation or have Carl Stahl assist you directly with the implementation.

Let us advise you

FAQ on exoskeletons

How do I find the right exoskeleton for my application?

We often look for the one solution that unfortunately doesn't exist. You have to look at the overall situation and compare the relevant options. It is important to not only look at the exoskeleton, but also at the people - in other words, your employees. Movement analyses, for example, allow you to better categorise the workplace + movement and make comparisons with and without the exoskeleton.

What do exoskeletons cost?

There are inexpensive systems on the market for a few hundred euros, but you should critically scrutinise where these systems come from and what added value they are supposed to offer. The most common exoskeletons start at €500 and can cost up to €8,000. The range here is still relatively high, as there are passive and active exoskeletons. The passive models are cheaper. With active exoskeletons, the innovative technology is the cost-driving factor.

Discover exoskeletons from Carl Stahl
 

Why does it make sense to first carry out a movement analysis of the workplace in question?

Motion analyses offer a great advantage for evaluating the current situation - they present everything graphically + meaningfully, so that you get a valid result that can be used for assessment.

How do I generate acceptance in my workforce for wearing exoskeletons?

It is important to get your employees on board and involved right from the start. This is a new work tool, which in some cases causes changes to the movement sequence. Your employees should voluntarily test the exoskeletons and also know the reason why they are to be used. If they are self-motivated, then they will also be accepted.

In which areas of application/workplaces/industries do exoskeletons not make sense?

The exoskeleton should be worn for at least 30 minutes to achieve a positive effect. An activity that is constantly changing would make less sense for the use of the exoskeleton. Here, the acceptance of employees also dwindles with increasing change.