Hilti to produce exoskeletons for construction
The European construction tools group has entered into a partnership with prosthetics manufacturer Ottobock to develop exoskeletal systems, which “open new possibilities in terms of health protection and productivity” in the construction industry.
Hilti and Ottobock are combining their know-how in the fields of safety, health protection and biomechanics to expand their portfolio of ergonomic solutions. Both companies have decades of experience in their respective fields and will cooperate in the area of research and development in the future.
“Exoskeletons are an important trend having great relevance for us. They provide relief for physically demanding tasks, such as those performed on construction sites every day. In Ottobock we have the ideal partner to combine our user protection and ergonomics knowledge with 100 years of biomechanical expertise. Our technology partnership will serve as the basis for the development of additional innovative and customer-oriented systems,” explains Johannes Wilfried Huber, head of Hilti’s Diamond Systems Business Unit.
Dr Sönke Rössing, head of Ottobock Industrials, said: “We are building on our experience gained from more than 500 successful exoskeleton projects, including in the automotive industry and various trades. There is a great deal of potential for solutions that reduce the physical strain on workers in the construction industry. We want to jointly expand this pillar in the coming years.”
Ottobock has been developing industrial exoskeletons from the Paexo product range since 2012 to create healthier workplaces.
Hilti will launch the first joint product, the EXO-O1, in autumn 2020. This is a passive model that does not require an energy supply. The weight of the arms is transferred to the hips via the forearm supports using mechanical cable pulling technology. Independent studies and Ottobock research have shown that this reduces the peak load on the muscles and relieves shoulders by up to 47%.
Exoskeletons can therefore make a significant contribution to health protection, particularly regarding work performed above shoulder level and overhead work. In terms of the construction industry, this targets serial or continuous activities. Fatigue is also reduced. As a result, this type of work can be carried out over a longer period of time with much greater productivity.
Over the longer-term preventive relief can help reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the shoulder area. These are some of the most common causes of worker disability in the construction industry and therefore pose a significant cost factor for companies and health care systems.
Hilti generated £5bn of sales in 2019. The headquarters of the Hilti Group have been located in Schaan, Liechtenstein, since its founding in 1941.
Ottobock works in the fields of prosthetics, orthotics and wheelchairs. The company, founded in 1919, also treats patients in its patient care division. The international activities of the company are coordinated from the head office in Duderstadt, Germany. Ottobock has been supporting the Paralympic Games with technical expertise since 1988.