Exoskeleton protects your back in real time

The equipment runs on the battery, performing all the processing internally. [Image: Fraunhofer IPK]

Orthosis for perfect ergonomics

A multidisciplinary team from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has created an exoskeleton that promises to minimize the back pain problems of workers who have to deal with weight bearing or repetitive movements.

Back pain, often disabling, leading to work shortages, mainly affects workers in logistics, manufacturing and services, where physically strenuous movement patterns are part of the daily work routine.

More than an EPI (Personal Protective Equipment), the device is an orthotic, capable of detecting movements in real time and reacting to them to maintain proper posture.

"The unparalleled feature of our soft robotic orthosis is its real-time motion analysis. Specially developed algorithms based on machine learning and artificial intelligence allow ergonomics to be analyzed.

"This distinguishes this bracing from commercially available exoskeletons, which are typically robots that, according to their functional principles, amplify all kinds of movements - even non-ergonomic ones - and only divert the load placed on the user from an overloaded part of the body for a less- demanding area, "explained Professor Henning Schmidt, development coordinator for the equipment, named ErgoJack .

The exoskeleton emits alerts when the worker adopts postures or non-ergonomic movements. Units of inertial measures, embedded in the vest, compare pre-learned movement patterns with the actual movement of the worker and evaluate it in real time. This takes only a few hundred milliseconds. The miniaturized motion sensors are located on the shoulders, back and thighs.

The tests were done at a Ford factory in Germany, and the team is now trying to license the technology to a trading partner.


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