OCCUPATIONAL APPLICATIONS Many new occupational back-support exoskeletons have been developed in the past few years both as research prototypes and as commercial products. These devices are intended to reduce the risk of lower- back pain and injury for workers in various possible application sectors, including assembly in automotive and aerospace, logistics, construction, healthcare, and agriculture. This article describes the technologies adopted for back-support exoskeletons and discusses their advantages and drawbacks. Such an overview is intended to promote a common understanding and to encourage discussion among different stakeholders such as developers, ergonomics practitioners, customers, and workers. TECHNICAL ABSTRACT Background: The large prevalence and risk of occupational lower-back pain and injury associated with manual material handling activities has raised interest in novel technical solutions. Wearable back-support exoskeletons promise to improve ergonomics by reducing the loading on the lumbar spine. Purpose: Since many new prototypes and products are being developed, this article presents an up-to-date overview of the different technologies. By discussing the corresponding advantages and drawbacks, the objective is to promote awareness and communication among developers, ergonomics practitioners, customers, and factory workers. Methods: The state-of-the-art is presented with a focus on three technological aspects: (i) the actuators generating assistive forces/torques, with a main distinction between passive and active devices; (ii) the structures and physical attachments that transfer those forces/torques to the user, with structures being soft, rigid, or a combination of the two; and (iii) the control strategies employed (i.e., how devices adjust assistive forces/torques to accommodate different activities and parameters). Discussion: The choice of actuation technology may determine the applicability of a device to different scenarios. Passive exoskeletons appear more suitable for tasks requiring relatively light assistance and little dynamic movements. By contrast, heavier and more dynamic tasks will justify the use of more complex active exoskeletons. While on- board battery power is increasingly present on active exoskeletons, the tradeoff between power autonomy and additional battery mass will probably depend on the specific application. Most back-support exoskeletons are implemented using rigid articulated structures, which tend to be heavy and bulky, but generate more appropriate patterns of forces. Fewer soft exoskeletons have been developed to date, although they could be integrated with or worn underneath standard working attire and offer greater user comfort. The adoption of any given device will ultimately depend on several factors, including user acceptance and the costs and benefits associated with specific applications.

Back-Support Exoskeletons for Occupational Use: An Overview of Technological Advances and Trends

Lazzaroni, Maria;Sposito, Matteo;
2019-01-01

Abstract

OCCUPATIONAL APPLICATIONS Many new occupational back-support exoskeletons have been developed in the past few years both as research prototypes and as commercial products. These devices are intended to reduce the risk of lower- back pain and injury for workers in various possible application sectors, including assembly in automotive and aerospace, logistics, construction, healthcare, and agriculture. This article describes the technologies adopted for back-support exoskeletons and discusses their advantages and drawbacks. Such an overview is intended to promote a common understanding and to encourage discussion among different stakeholders such as developers, ergonomics practitioners, customers, and workers. TECHNICAL ABSTRACT Background: The large prevalence and risk of occupational lower-back pain and injury associated with manual material handling activities has raised interest in novel technical solutions. Wearable back-support exoskeletons promise to improve ergonomics by reducing the loading on the lumbar spine. Purpose: Since many new prototypes and products are being developed, this article presents an up-to-date overview of the different technologies. By discussing the corresponding advantages and drawbacks, the objective is to promote awareness and communication among developers, ergonomics practitioners, customers, and factory workers. Methods: The state-of-the-art is presented with a focus on three technological aspects: (i) the actuators generating assistive forces/torques, with a main distinction between passive and active devices; (ii) the structures and physical attachments that transfer those forces/torques to the user, with structures being soft, rigid, or a combination of the two; and (iii) the control strategies employed (i.e., how devices adjust assistive forces/torques to accommodate different activities and parameters). Discussion: The choice of actuation technology may determine the applicability of a device to different scenarios. Passive exoskeletons appear more suitable for tasks requiring relatively light assistance and little dynamic movements. By contrast, heavier and more dynamic tasks will justify the use of more complex active exoskeletons. While on- board battery power is increasingly present on active exoskeletons, the tradeoff between power autonomy and additional battery mass will probably depend on the specific application. Most back-support exoskeletons are implemented using rigid articulated structures, which tend to be heavy and bulky, but generate more appropriate patterns of forces. Fewer soft exoskeletons have been developed to date, although they could be integrated with or worn underneath standard working attire and offer greater user comfort. The adoption of any given device will ultimately depend on several factors, including user acceptance and the costs and benefits associated with specific applications.
2019
Exoskeletons, manual handling, personal protective equipment, back support
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1119645
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