Exoskeletons: physical assistance at work
Gradually but surely, exoskeletons are taking their place in various sectors: logistics, construction, transport, agriculture, car assembly, postal sorting, maintenance of green spaces, etc. The use of exoskeletons is also possible within the framework of professional reintegration, job retention for seniors or the inclusion of disabled employees. Exoskeletons are therefore versatile devices that seem to be called upon to become more and more a part of our work environments in the future.
To meet this need, manufacturers of portable assistive exoskeletons are working to increase the ergonomics of their products to make them accessible to a wider audience. Exoskeletons are now made of innovative materials that perform better. According to Yann Perrot, head of the interactive robotics department at CEA List,, “their development is based on a subtle balance between performance and simplicity. Indeed, the more sophisticated an exoskeleton is, the more its weight and cost increase, which can be inconvenient for the user. Manufacturers have therefore sought to lighten the weight of these devices by using lighter materials and developing specialized models that assist only one part of the body. For example, carbon springs have replaced steel ones, and some passive equipment can help carry up to 25 kg.
Postural exoskeletons, on the other hand, do not allow for heavy lifting, but relieve the operator when he or she has to maintain awkward positions or perform repetitive motions. This optimization of exoskeletons is crucial to their development in the market, which is expected to grow from $192 million in 2018 to $5.8 billion by 2028, according to consulting firm ABI Research.
The lack of specific standards and several unresolved technical issues hinder the routine practical use of exoskeletons in relevant companies. Specific issues include discomfort, device weight, alignment with human anatomy and kinematics, and sensing human intent to enable fluid movements.
Ergonoma journal has been covering this topic for several years now, and we continue to monitor the market to continually provide our readers with information on the latest innovations in this area.
Stonger by EXHAUSS, Four exoskeletons in one
In 2020, EXHAUSS launches Stronger. A new range that combines the advantages of two other models: the fluidity of EXHAUSS SXSTEM, the close-to-the-body architecture and the progressive assistance of PICKER. The Stronger aims for versatility and offers several features, including a new latex tensioner suspension system combined with high fluidity thanks to numerous ball bearings. This system provides an organic feel similar to that of human muscles. It gives users the ability to reconfigure their Stronger to their needs with progressive and isoelastic assistance that can be adjusted with a simple knob. The Stronger features a new orbital scapula that pivots over the operator’s shoulder for automatic adjustment to the user’s arm length. With an optimized weight, Stronger is capable of supporting a 25 kg load.
MATE-XT, the latest generation from COMAU
Italian company COMAU introduced the MATE-XT exoskeleton in December 2020. Featuring a passive spring-based mechanism and breathable fabrics, it offers users eight levels of assistance and a redesigned lock/unlock mechanism for easy donning and doffing. It is designed for people who perform tasks that require prolonged use of their upper limbs, especially at a flexion/extension angle of approximately 90 degrees, The MATE-XT is suitable for many industries including construction, appliance, agriculture, service and automotive and is suitable for users between 5’10” and 5’10”.
The MATE-XT was developed in cooperation with ‘IUVO and Össu. The device is certified in accordance with the European Machinery Directive 2006/42/CE, taking into account the technical standard ISO 13482/2014 on personal care robots.
SKELEX 360-XFR by SKELEX
Dutch made, the Skelex 360-XFR puts the user’s safety first. The essential elements of the outer shell, such as the arm shells and the height adjustment system, are made of high quality materials such as Tencate TecaSafe (Plus)® and Kevlar ® Nomax ®, which are flame retardant, flame resistant, water repellent, oil resistant and static proof.
HAPO Exoskeletons by ERGOSANTE
A range free of all superfluous
HMT, the French Start Up in force
HMT has developed 3 devices
HMT, Human Mechanical Technologies (HMT) , based at the foot of the Pyrenees in Tarbes (65), is a company, created in 2017, which has built its expertise around ergonomics and engineering with the aim of fighting against occupational risks and promoting optimal working conditions.
HMT designs, manufactures and integrates physical assistance devices: 100% mechanical exoskeletons made in France.
LAEVO, The concept of reusing your own energy
Laevo exoskeletons are equipped with several spring systems that store the energy generated when the torso is tilted forward. This energy is then released when returning to the upright position, providing additional muscle support. With this technology, users can reduce their physical effort during flexion and extension movements, resulting in less muscle fatigue. In addition, the lack of constraint on the body’s natural movements ensures freedom of movement.
BackX dynamic, exoskeleton by Ottobock
The best-selling exoskeleton for work at height
Ottobock’s dynamic BackX exoskeleton is a solution for manual workers who must handle heavy loads. With an average 60% reduction in the load on the lower back when lifting objects, it offers great protection against injury and muscle fatigue. In addition, its flexible design allows for freedom of movement for a variety of tasks, such as driving forklifts, working in tight spaces, or even climbing stairs. For more ergonomics, there is the Paexo Neck which can be worn in combination with other exoskeletons such as the Ottobock Shoulder, but also as a stand-alone exoskeleton. This exoskeleton is used for all work that takes place above the shoulder. According to the hammock principle, users can simply put their head back and the head is carried.
INNOPYHS, MUSCLE SUIT EVERY
For domestic and industrial use
The Japanese company Innophys, a young startup founded in 2013, wanted to bring to market with this product an exoskeleton for everyone. The INNOPYHS, MUSCLE SUIT EVERY assists movements up to 25.5 kg of auxiliary force. Equipped with an artificial muscle using air pressure, it therefore adapts to the movements of each person wearing it for an unlimited period of time. Simply fill it with air using the pump provided and it is ready to use. So when the assist power wanes, simply add more air.
CrayX, by German Bionics, an Exoskeleton connected to the world
In accordance with the IP54 standard, the CrayX exoskeleton offers dual support for full assistance when lifting and walking up to 30 kg. With its hot-swap battery replacement capability, the CrayX can track real-time usage of the device as well as safety practices adopted. With German Bionics, we’re talking about bio-telematics in the workplace. You can get valuable information about the health status of your employees. With the sensors work in the background to collect data on physical activity, fatigue and other parameters, you can improve the safety and well-being of your workers.
Japet, Wearable Medicine for Occupational Health
The Japet Exoskeleton reduces the impact of handling loads, repetitive tasks and awkward postures on the spine. It thus reduces accidents and work stoppages due to low back pain
“The Japet exoskeleton is the solution for assisting agents with back problems. It is an assistance device that provides relief while maintaining trunk mobility.” Yonnel Giovanelli Head of Ergonomics and Organizational and Human Factors, SNCF
NOONEE, The chair without chair
Thanks to the chairless chair 2.0, this is now possible. To work in a healthy position, simply put on the Noonee exoskeleton, which only takes a few seconds. The Chairless Chair 2.0 allows you to effortlessly move from an active sitting position to a standing or walking position.
GOBIO, Ergoskeleton IP14 Chairless Chair
Examples of Chairless Chairs uses
The Ergoskeleton IP14 Chairless Chair is versatile: for automotive assembly, electrical cabinet wiring or production line reconditioning. It offers sitting positions at different heights and the freedom to easily switch to a standing position or to move around.
Able Human Motion, Enabling mobility, for everyone
“Today, Able Human Motion has achieved what many people unable to walk have been hoping for. Our exoskeleton weighs 16 kg and we plan to put it on the market at a price of 60,000 euros”, explains Alfons Carnicero, CEO of the company
Able Human Motion is a Barcelona-based start-up that develops robotic exoskeletons to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. Enabling people to move by themselves is undoubtedly essential to unleash the full human potential.
By Mounira Tyal