The exoskeleton market is rapidly growing, with many different industry verticals benefiting from the explosion in innovation and use cases. One research house estimates the exoskeleton market will grow to as much as 2,810.5 MUSD by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 45.2% (CAGR) through the year 2023 (ref.). This growth highlights those leading industrial organizations worldwide that are investing generously, through the use of exoskeletons, in the health and well-being of their most valuable resource – their workforces.
Core drivers for industrial exoskeleton investments are to help reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMD). These are a challenge that drives up workers’ compensation claims and lowers morale along with overall productivity.
To give a clearer perspective on some of the types of applications that exoskeletons are addressing, I’ve put together a shortlist of five use cases by vertical that are currently in place and supported by Ottobock’s Paexo Exoskeletons.
Use Case 1: Automobile Assembly
Paexo Shoulder is helping people to reduce shoulder and upper back strain within the automotive sector. Paexo Shoulder is primarily leveraged in two postures.
- When working in a primarily static overhead posture, such as while installing underbody components of an automobile that requires workers to stand and move beneath a raised vehicle.
- When working in non-static overhead with waist hight postures, such as the rear tailgate assembly processes that require workers to install wiring, grommets, and/or fasteners. The Paexo exoskeleton allows dynamic movements that do not limit the mobility of the worker.
The Paexo Shoulder in these instances reduces shoulder and upper arm strain by more than 50% during work performed above chest height.
Use Case 2: Railway MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations)
Once a rolling stock is in service, the MRO activities are the key to preserving the railway vehicle’s value and safety. Many train repairs are done while the rolling stock is elevated so that workers can work under the rail car in a standing posture with the arms extended overhead. This posture is also relevant for the individuals working within the rail car (e.g., updating wiring, fixing lighting fixtures, and maintaining heating and air conditioning components).
Use Case 3: Logistics
In logistics centers, workers are often challenged with needing to lift and move items such as boxes, totes, and bags. The starting point for these lifts can begin at various heights. The Paexo Back was designed and developed to help address these dynamic lifting postures in collaboration with employees in warehousing and parcel distribution centers. The Paexo Back works by absorbing force within its energy store when bending and then rereleases it when lifting. Paexo Back generates a relief of up to 55 lbs (25 kg) for the lower back.
Use Case 4: Aviation Assembly and MRO
During the assembly and maintenance of an aircraft, you will find many work processes that involve work postures that can be assisted with the use of exoskeletons. For example, work stations that include rivet/fastener tasks, sanding, cleaning, and painting can all benefit from the use of Paexo Shoulder and Paexo Neck.
Furthermore, Paexo is also being leveraged in jobs that require holding a light hand tool (e.g., drill, rivet gun, sander, etc.) or pole-mounted tools (as pictured to the right) for extended periods. Over time, light tools don’t feel so light and then create fatigue and strain in the hand, wrist, and shoulder. With the assistance of Paexo exoskeletons, strain is reduced significantly.
Use Case 5: Electronics Assembly
With our Paexo Thumb, we support people who place strain on their thumbs at work. Such activities can include clipping, inserting, or plugging tasks on assembly lines. The small and extremely lightweight exoskeleton relieves the thumb by up to 70% by redirecting forces to the entire hand and forearm. This force redistribution reduces strain on the thumb joints and protects the tip of the thumb against abrasions.
Keep in mind that these five popular use cases are only a small sample of the many applications that Paexo exoskeletons are addressing. Paexo exoskeletons alone are used in more than 500 factories globally.
The exoskeleton market is rapidly expanding, and Ottobock Industrials is quickly adapting with new and innovative products that address diverse uses cases to meet the needs of today’s workforce. The best part about working with Ottobock Paexo products is that you get to be part of the solution that helps people within your businesses to achieve health, safety, and well-being goals.
By Robert Llanes