Robomate exoskeleton will make it ten times easier for workers to lift things

The Robo-Mate exoskeleton can reduce the effort to lift a load by ten times. It is able to reduce the effort needed to lift a load and protects the spine from heavy lifting and sudden movements.

You don’t have to become a cyborg to stay safe when it comes to manual handling. However, over 25 percent of Europeans experience back injuries at work – a statistic that has inspired Robo-Mate, a project that aims to give workers a tool to decrease physical stress and risks associated with heavy lifting.

Twelve partners from seven European countries have joined this EU-funded project, geared mainly towards industrial applications.

In Augsburg, Germany, the technical teams are at the final stages in the development of the Robo-Mate technology.

It is not just industrial workers who need help with heavy lifting. New developments will focus on expanding the range of end users.

“For example in the logistics sector, at airports, baggage handling, there is a great need,” said Heiligensetzer. “Or in the medical sector, taking care of elderly people, nurses who have to lift heavy patients would be happy with a Robo-Mate system.”

The Italian Institute of Technology (ITT) has been involved in the final Robo-Mate trunk prototype in the areas of comfort, weight and motion control.

Having stronger arms is not much use if the worker struggles to handle the load. The device needs to feel comfortable after hours of work.

“One of the most complicated areas of the system is to making it easy and conformable to wear, not too heavy. In this way the user will be satisfied and he will feel that it [the exoskleleton] is helpful,” said Jesús Ortiz, Research Technologist, IIT.

To get a lighter exoskeleton, developers have worked to find solutions for every component. In the end they found inspiration in the traditional backpack.

To make it adjustable to different industries and to different tasks, Robo-Mate’s exoskeleton consists of three modules:

  • A trunk module to reduce loads to the lower back.
  • Passive parallelogram arms module based on springs to provide gravity compensation and reduce static muscle loads.
  • Active Parallelogram arms module equipped with state of the art wire pull functions offering assistive support for pick and place tasks.

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