In August 2018, Ford announced that it is rolling out 75 EksoVests (a passive upper-extremity exoskeleton) to 75 of its automotive plants worldwide. This is the largest adoption of exoskeletons by a company yet.
At the same time, German artificial limb manufacturer Ottobock announced in September 2018 that is was in talks with Volkswagen about rolling out its Paexo (another passive upper-extremity exoskeleton) in their manufacturing plants, following successful tests with 30 of their workers in Bratislava.
Both of these developments address the same problem in the workplace. Workers have to reach above their heads thousands of times a day when working on the underside of cars. The passive exoskeletons take some of the weight from their shoulder, allowing them to work without risking upper body injuries.
The exoskeleton industry needs more of these keystone applications for it to succeed. Just as cobots really took off when they found their keystone applications (machine tending, pick and place, etc) exoskeletons will grow when they become indispensable for some tasks.
Read also: What Are the Best Collaborative Robots?
How Exoskeletons Could Help Your Business
The main benefit of exoskeletons is one which is also a benefit of collaborative robots. They reduce ergonomics issues, which are a major cause of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. This type of injury is very common and can be both devastating to the worker and to the company.
The best way that you can start thinking about these ergonomics issues is to do an ergonomics review. We introduced how to do this in the article “Robots Can Help Reduce 35% of Work Days Lost to Injury.”
Exoskeletons may be the solution to your ergonomics issues. However, collaborative robots could also be a solution.