Carl Stahl Hebetechnik

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The use of exoskeletons in the workplace

The technological findings and research in the field of exoskeletons are still novel today and therefore still at the beginning of future possibilities. However, these findings already offer the first useful starting points for passive and active exoskeletons that can make everyday work easier. Exoskeletons already proved themselves as highly technical aids in rehabilitation several years ago and are increasingly entering the industry. It can already be perceived that the importance of the further development of various assistance systems, can be significant for the future.

Automation, robots, digitalization. These buzzwords are ubiquitous in industry, and in many places new technologies are already making workplace tasks easier. However, strenuous manual tasks still account for a large share of production, logistics and skilled trades.

Due to the different applications, there are various possibilities to use an exoskeleton in-house. An impairment does not necessarily have to be in the foreground. The exoskeleton can facilitate or simplify activities as a supportive measure. Activities can thus be designed more ergonomically for the user.

The support structures worn on the body reduce the load acting on employees through electrical or mechanical support and reduce risks of injury from physical stress. The main aim is to strengthen the employee's own physical strength without significantly increasing the effort required.

 

Active and passive exoskeletons design and operation:

An exoskeleton is an external support function that assists the wearer's movement.

Distinctions are made between passive and active exoskeletons.

 

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

The active exoskeleton offers the user what the name describes as active support. 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 control of the movement steps can take place here via muscle tension, which is recorded by sensors. Alternatively, control can also take place via a control console.

 

Skills shortages, rising employee turnover, an increasing number of cases of musculoskeletal disorders, demographic change, and the issues surrounding digitalization are accelerating innovative factors and products like exoskeletons today.

Looking at the work-related musculoskeletal disorders published by the DGUV include (DGUV, 2019):

  • Disc-related spinal diseases
  • Gonarthrosis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Hypothenar-Thenar-Hammer Syndrome
  • Among the most common musculoskeletal disorders currently reported.

 

Areas of application in which physically demanding activities are performed. By mimicking and thus amplifying movements with the aid of electronic, sensory and mechanical processes, exoskeletons make work easier for their wearers in the industrial sector. As a result, potential discomfort - primarily in the trunk and back muscles - is prevented in advance and work efficiency is increased.

Here are a few more examples of application areas:

  • Mounting
  • Production
  • Logistics
  • Craft
  • Agriculture

 

Carl Stahl Hebetechnik GmbH also offers new and innovative products in the field of exoskeletons:

- Levitate Airframe

The Airframe shifts the weight of the arms from the shoulders, neck and upper back to the outside of the hips, distributing the energy evenly to reduce stress. Application video.

- Bioservo Ironhand

The Ironhand system consists of a glove that covers all five fingers and a power station that is worn in a backpack or waist belt. Using a remote control and app, the operator can easily adjust the power, balance between fingers, sensitivity, lock and other settings to tailor the system to the work situation. Version 2.0 adjusts individually to the user. Application video.

- Auxivo Liftsuit

The Liftsuit is a passive exoskeleton that supports the upper body especially in the 30-60° forward inclined posture. The elastomers incorporated provide support through pre-tensioning. Daily work can be performed more easily and in a more relaxed manner thanks to the product.

- Auxivo CarrySuit

The Carrysuit is a type of backpack with different adapter variants. Unhandy items can be carried close to the body and are diverted from the back to the hips so that the load no longer has to be carried in the area of the back muscles. This not only relaxes the arm and back muscles, but also the cardiovascular system.

- hTrius BionicBack

The BionicBack is a passive exoskeleton for relieving the back muscles. It is a body-mounted lifting aid. The exoskeleton back structure is designed according to the required range of motion of the human body and allows all movements without restrictions. At the same time, it absorbs all internal and external forces and diverts them to specific and defined locations. The exoskeleton back structure forms the fine line between flexibility and rigidity in one system.

- Noonee ChairlessChair

Work ergonomically, comfortably and even more productively without changing your workplace - the Chairless Chair makes it possible. Simply put it on in a few seconds and you'll be working in a healthy posture. You can switch smoothly between active sitting, standing and walking.

 

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