Technology shoulders the burden of assembly tasks

| Manufacturing

Variable support exoskeleton provides relief from postural fatigue

Variable support exoskeleton provides support for the upper body in a variety of assembly tasks at dental lamp manufacturer in Italy

The assembly line staff at Faro, an Italian dental and laboratory equipment manufacturer, is providing workplace fatigue relief to its production staff with the Comau Mate exoskeleton, which has been designed to relieve shoulder stress for operators who often keep their arms overhead, even when not lifting weights.

Operators working in the lamp assembly line at Faro don’t have to lift heavy objects, since the complete unit only weighs about 7 kg, but they do repeat the same movements hundreds of times. Therefore, after several hours of work, fatigue begins to take its toll on their shoulders.

To bring relief to this fatigue, Faro currently has a single exoskeleton which is used by two operators, one of whom wears it for an entire shift. According to Paolo Varisco, Head of Operations at Faro, the exoskeleton is extremely easy to wear as well as being easy to use. A single half a day of training is more than enough to work independently. Now, as a result of the initial trials, Faro is planning to purchase other exoskeletons in the near future.

Mate stands for “Muscular Aiding Tech Exoskeleton” and supports the operator by reducing the stress on the upper limbs when performing overhead operations. Developed in collaboration with ÖSSUR, an Icelandic orthopaedic company, and IUVO, a spin-off company of the Italian BioRobotics Institute, the Exoskeleton is fully able to replicate dynamic movements of the shoulder while enwrapping the body like a second skin. This ensures greater comfort for the worker and increases work quality and efficiency by providing consistent movement assistance during manual and repetitive tasks.

According to Elena Corsi of Comau, Mate is an exoskeleton with a completely passive mechanical structure. In fact, its main job is not helping the operator lift heavy weights but supporting the arms at an angle between 30 and 120 degrees, which is the angle formed by the arm and the upper body. In this condition, Mate transfers much of the burden away from the arms to the pelvis, near the centre of gravity. The burden is reduced by means of springs which generate a variable torque that replicates the physiological movement of the shoulder. The springs are calibrated on seven different levels, depending on the weight and height of the worker, and on the type of operation: it will be lighter in the case of nonstop arm movements, and more intense if the operator has to keep the arms overhead for a long period of time”.

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