Humans and machines: strong and healthy together
According to the Dortmund Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, muscular and skeletal disorders, MSE for short, are responsible for at least 23 percent of all sick leave days taken in Germany. They result in an estimated gross value added loss of 17 billion euros per year. The main causes of MSD are physical strain during lifting and carrying at work, resulting in damage to muscles and ligaments as well as to bones and cartilage. The figures appear even more dramatic against the background of an aging population and already noticeable shortage of skilled workers in production. While in many cases, assistive equipment such as trucks or cranes could improve the situation of workers, in practice, such equipment often proves to be too inflexible or expensive.
After six years of development work and a successfully completed test program in several large industrial companies, German Bionic Systems has now launched mass production of its exoskeleton. The “Bionic CRAY X” model was designed in close collaboration with work ergonomists and is mainly intended to reduce the compression pressure in the lower back area when it comes to lifting heavy loads. Wearing comfort plays a central role in acceptance of new technology for human-robot cooperation, said Heiligensetzer: “Among other things, our development work in the last months has therefore focused on further miniaturizing components and using a lighter, more powerful battery.” The “Bionic CRAY X” uses pioneering micromechanical components and an ergonomic, ultralight wearing system, allowing the wearer to easily pick up and set down even heavy components from non-ergonomic positions.
German Bionic Systems aims to leverage the new technology to put people at the center of Industry 4.0: “Our labor world is far from having all work carried out by robots.” Most decision makers have now realized that not every kind of human work can feasibly be fully automated or robotized,” emphasized Heiligensetzer. In an effort to promote research into intelligent human-machine and artificial intelligence systems, German Bionic is currently developing a software platform based on open-source technology and open standards. In the future, sensory data will be collected, analyzed, anonymized and made freely available for research purposes. The market is big after all: according to a study by the US market research institute BIS Research, global demand for wearable robotics is expected to rise to $ 4.65 billion by 2026.
Photographs: German Bionic Systems GmbH
Click here to go to the study by BIS Research on the “Global Wearable Robotic Exoskeleton Market”: