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New exoskeleton control mechanism helps reducing spinal load

11 March 2024
Using a supportive device, called an exoskeleton, can help reducing the load on your back during heavy lifting tasks. Movement scientist Ali Tabasi developed a new way to control this device, ensuring it better meets each user's needs, enhancing comfort and effectiveness. In his research, Tabasi also looked at practical aspects of making these exoskeletons more accepted by users for daily workplace use. Providing tailor-made assistive support in a practical way that fits into the workplace is feasible.

Tabais investigated musculoskeletal disorders, notably low-back pain (LBP), prevalent in physically demanding roles, focusing on how active back-support exoskeletons can mitigate spinal loads, a key contributor to LBP. “The research question aimed at enhancing exoskeleton control systems to minimize low-back load during lifting operations”, says Tabasi. “Motivated by LBP's profound impact on workers and its economic implications, the objective was to refine exoskeleton technology for improved musculoskeletal disorder prevention in the workplace.”

The research introduced an innovative control model and explored various practical aspects, such as model calibration, and the impact of muscle fatigue, to develop exoskeletons that are not only effective in reducing spinal load but also user-friendly and adaptable to diverse work environments.

Labour-intensive roles
The research by Tabasi on exoskeletons has significant implications for individuals in labour-intensive roles, such as warehouse and construction workers. “These devices offer a promising solution to lessen the risk of back injuries, contributing to safer work environments and potentially reducing injury-related absences. For example, in warehouses, exoskeletons could support employees in safely lifting heavy objects. This advancement could become widespread in various industries within a few years, aligning with the critical need for improved occupational safety measures”, says Tabasi.

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