Industrial exoskeletons can reduce physical activity by 40%

(ORDO NEWS) — Exoskeletons have always been something futuristic and high-tech. It would seem that you can just put on a special suit and get superhuman abilities. It turns out that engineers from the Italian Institute of Technology can prove it.

Various exoskeletons have long been used both for rehabilitation for people with problems with the musculoskeletal system, and in warehouses, where they help carry heavy loads.

Italian engineers have also developed several exoskeleton prototypes to support industrial workers. Suits are fastened to the back and reduce physical strain by 40%, protecting the shoulders, elbows and spine from potential injuries.

Each model is equipped with a pair of electric motors and control algorithms for mechanical prostheses, the weight of the structure varies from 6.5 to 7.7 kilograms.

More about the exoskeleton

The exoskeleton models are prototypes developed by the Collaborative Cybernetic Systems project , from the National Institute for Industrial Accident Insurance. As part of the program, scientists have designed three exoskeletons:

  • xoTrunk,
  • XoShoulder
  • and XoElbow.

The first provides support for the lower back, the second targets the shoulders, and the third strengthens the elbows. According to the developers, workers using these models will be able to lift significantly heavier equipment without fear of straining their backs and injuring other limbs.

XoTrunk

This exoskeleton is aimed at those professionals who often need to carry heavy equipment. The suit strengthens the legs and lower back, making a 20kg box feel like a 12kg box. On the scale of regular eight-hour work shifts, the authors argue, XoTrunk has the potential to impact warehouse productivity and safety.

XoShoulder

This model has been designed to support workers who are most often exposed to physical stress, in particular, often tense shoulders.

As an example, the engineers cited car workshops, where specialists work under vehicles on lifts. During the working day, they are forced to hold heavy tools above shoulder level for several hours, which negatively affects the musculoskeletal system.

The XoShoulder solves this problem with a pair of electric motors, each delivering 12Nm of torque. The exoskeleton takes over part of the load and helps you get the job done faster.

XoElbow

The latest model is focused on lifting loads located close to the operator’s body. An example of use for XoElbow is the same workshops where workers have to lift heavy tires above shoulder height to fit onto a vehicle. It is equipped with the same motors as the XoShoulder and weighs around 7kg.

The XoTrunk systems are currently being tested in various warehouses and factories in Italy, with XoShoulder and XoElbow to join in the coming months. If the testing is successful, engineers will discuss the possibility of commercializing new exoskeletons.

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