With more than 25% of all days of absence due to illness, musculoskeletal disorders are the most common reason for work absenteeism in Germany and most industrialized countries. The main reasons for this are un-ergonomic working conditions, such as working in physically demanding positions or lifting and carrying heavy objects. In Germany, around a quarter of all workers are affected.
In many areas in which the technical and organizational improvement measures are already exhausted, exoskeletons increasingly represent a promising possibility to effectively relieve workers during heavy physical work. These body-worn assistance systems provide biomechanical support for the human musculoskeletal system through targeted support of overstressed body areas such as the lower back or the shoulder complex. A growing number of laboratory and field studies already prove their effectiveness, but also show that a sound understanding of their scope of application is absolutely necessary. For some applications, it has already been shown that the risk of injury and the associated costs can be significantly reduced with the introduction of exoskeletons. Hence it is expected, that exoskeletons can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders in the future.
Since almost 10 years is an interdisciplinary team at Fraunhofer IPA active in the field of exoskeletons, working on the design and the evaluation of such systems from biomechanical and ergonomic perspectives, as well as on their technical realization, with the aim of making them as intuitive as possible and adapted to human needs. Since 2019, we have been organizing every two years the WearRAcon Europe Conference - a congress that deals exclusively with exoskeletons - together with the Wearable Robotics Association. The Exoworkathlon®, consisting of a variety of realistic tasks and work scenarios defined specifically together with representatives from different industrial sectors, was also launched in parallel to the 2021 edition. In this context, experienced trainees from various mechatronic training courses were performing the tasks, while prospective data were collected with different sensor modalities to determine effects with versus without an exoskeleton.
You have an ergonomic challenge and see exoskeletons as a possible solution?
With more than 100 exoskeletons on the market, it is not an easy task to choose, as each system can have its advantages in different areas. Using proven methods, our experts from the fields of ergonomics, physiotherapy and sports science analyze your work processes and general conditions and help you to select the right solution. They support you in the systematic testing of the systems by the workforce and assist you with the introduction and establishment of the chosen solution.
You intend to enter this rapidly growing market and want to develop your own solution or a solution for a special application?
We also support you competently as a development partner and make our technical skills and our many years of know-how available to you. We work with you to implement effective and practicable technical solutions to support workers performing heavy physical work.
As a manufacturer, you want to evaluate your developments or, as a user, want to examine the benefits of a solution?
We carry out an evaluation for you as an independent partner in all confidentiality, from punctual tests to a full-fledged study. In addition to subjective impressions, we can also assess a broad category of objective parameters, including as muscle activity, movement behavior and/or physical stress during use of the exoskeleton.
Feel free to contact us, we look forward to working with you!