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Robo-Mate Reduces Workers’ Loads Tenfold “First Exoskeleton Specifically Designed for Industrial Use

The Robo-Mate, recently unveiled at Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart, is the first exoskeleton designed specifically for industrial use. The project began in 2013 as a result of the collaboration between twelve research institutes and companies in seven European countries. Their goal was to create a powered exoskeleton that would act as a support frame, reducing the physical workload for assembly and disassembly work by a factor of ten. With 44 million workers in the EU alone suffering from musculoskeletal disorders and some lifting up to 10 tons a day, according to the Work Foundation Alliance, the Robo-Mate could greatly impact employee retention and health care systems while allowing many countries to keep jobs from moving.

The Robo-Mate exoskeleton is comprised of a series of inter-supporting modules for the arms, trunk, and legs. The arm modules, which actively support the wearer’s arms, make the load feel like only a tenth of its real weight, while the trunk module supports the back and spine, preventing twisting or slipped discs. The leg modules support the inner thighs, acting like a seat while the user is squatting so that holding the load requires no additional strength.

The exoskeleton owes its development in part to software that simulated tasks involving assembly and disassembly in order to identify the stresses placed upon the body. Considering it and the body as a single unit, the team was able to determine the suitability of the exoskeleton for certain tasks. The safety requirements of the Robo-Mate are currently being evaluated and a streamlined case for the unit developed to make it more viable as an everyday tool for workers.


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