Thursday, June 17, 2021

Study Looks at a Practical Method of Reducing Strain Injuries at Work

Wearable Robotics Have a Future in Logistics Operations
Shipping News Feature
ITALY – GERMANY – WORLDWIDE – Although it may seem a little science fiction to many, wearable robotics may well have a major place in the prospective future of logistics and the pick and pack and supply chain warehouse environments.

Reportedly a back-related injury accounts for one in every five injuries and illnesses at work with a US survey revealing that 80% of these injuries were to the lower back and, unsurprisingly, 75% of these happened during lifting tasks. This equates to millions of unnecessarily lost man hours.

Now industrial automation group Comau and associated wearable technology outfit IUVO have partnered with Heidelberg University to quantify the degree to which the Comau MATE-XT exoskeleton can reduce physical stress during strenuous tasks involving repetitive shoulder flexion movements within the German industrial context.

The scientific study will analyse the biomechanics of using the equipment for new applications, under new conditions and within new industries and outdoor environments, while verifying users’ learning and motor adaptation speeds. The results achieved can then be applied in similar conditions within other contexts all over the world. Giuseppe Colombina, Comau HUMANufacturing Innovation Hub Leader and CEO of IUVO commented:

“The collaboration with Heidelberg University underscores our commitment to evolve the use of adaptive wearable technologies through the combination of empirically-backed research, advanced robotics and biomedical expertise.”

The validation of the efficacy of such breakthrough technologies in the field of biomedical devices and wearable robotics is an important step toward improving the quality of life for workers tasked with heavy, repetitive or highly manual operations. Lorenzo Masia, Ph.D. and Tenured Professor in Medical Technology and Biorobotics at Heidelberg University said:

“The collaboration with Comau and IUVO is extremely strategic for my research group at Heidelberg University. We have the chance to test a certified device from a leading automation company, and one that is also complementary to the robotic technology we have been designing here.”

According to Comau estimates, the global market for exoskeletons alone will reach a 5-year compound annual growth rate of up to 40%, with the industrial sector representing close to half of this. Nicola Vitiello, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and founding partner of IUVO concluded:

“The proliferation of wearable robotic devices represents a long-term, sustainable answer to ensure wellbeing in the workplace. Our research with Heidelberg University, studying the use of MATE-XT within the German industrial context, will amplify our knowledge about the platform and potential development areas.”