Parcours

Specific Parcour modules are developed with industrial relevance to simulate realistic work processes. A single professional user runs each Parcour
twice – once with exoskeleton and once without exoskeleton. The exoskeleton as well as the task execution with and without exoskeleton are randomly assigned to the participants.

A detailed description of the background and methodology of Exoworkathlon is in the paper "Exoworkathlon: A prospective study approach for the evaluation of industrial exoskeletons" by Kopp et al. 2022.

Different methods of evaluation are used. Subjective user feedback scoring is a key element. A comparison of intra-individual differences is generated. The exoskeleton manufacturers, that have already participated, are mentioned but the specific exoskeleton used is kept anonymously in the output statistics.

Assessments

Assessments

The assessment methods include subjective feedback in the specific task, user comfort during wearing an exoskeleton, an analysis of ergonomic aspects and quality of work. The following table lists the various assessments and assigns them to the three Parcours (see results). In general, only the quality score is task specific and therefore Parcour specific, all other assessments can be applied to any Parcour. 

Assessments Parcours

Subjective User Feedback

Effort of the task [0-10]
Body discomfort Scale [1-8]
System Usability Scale [1-5]

P1 - P3

Quality

Duration of the activity (working time)
Accuracy in task (pixel overpainting the specified line)
Weldseam quality (rating of welding by AR simulator)

 

P2
P2
P3

Electromyography (Mean muscle activity [%MVC] in combination to the movement)

M. erector spinae (during forward bending)
M. deltoideus anterior and medial (during shoulder flexion)

 

P1
P2

Metabolics

Cardiac Output (by use of Impedance Cardiography)

 

P3

Parcour 1 - Back-supporting Exoskeleton in Logistics

Parcour 1 - Back-supporting Exoskeletons in Logistics

© Fraunhofer IPA

Highly repetitive tasks, extern weights and non-ergonomic postures are typical for workplaces in intralogistics and are considered as being particularly stressful for the human body, especially the lower back.

This Parcour depicts a realistic, representative task of a “band-cleaner” in an automotive plant. 8kg packages, each marked with one of two colours, have to be picked from a table (representing a belt) and carried to one of two grid boxes 2m away. The packages are sorted according to their markings into the grid boxes. For the transport of one package the time is limited to 10sec, which is based on the rhythm in logistics of automotive industry. A running info clock gives a rough time for sorting each package, so that all 48 packages are sorted within 8min. After one sorting round, the test subject has a 2min break during which a questionnaire is filled out related to their subjective effort and body discomfort during the work.

After the break, the test subject has to sort the packages back to the table. This process of placing 48 package in grid boxes within 8min and back to the table in the next round is repeated three times, so that the total working time is 1h. After working 1h with an exoskeleton, the subjects fill out a questionnaire about the wearing comfort and the usability of this system. After at least 1h break the subject would repeat the task with our without exoskeleton (randomised).

Parcour 2 - Exoskeletons for the upper Extremities in Automotive Assembly

Parcour 2 - Exoskeletons for the upper Extremities in Automotive Assembly

© Fraunhofer IPA

There is repetitive overhead work in car assembly and in maintenance at car service garages. These tasks can cause work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the shoulders, neck and upper extremities, and likewise affect the precision of the work due to muscle fatigue.

Therefore, in Parcour 2 tasks of an underbody assembly in an automotive plant are simulated as realistic working processes in an automotive plant. This includes assembly and disassembly tasks (for experimental practicality) 

  •     setting clips (12 clips)
  •     screwing with a battery screwdriver (16 screws)
  •     laying cables into nine cable holders (2 cables)
  •     painting lines (25 times, lines of 390mm each)

Each individual task is performed in a given time according to the “Method-Time-Measurements” (MTM), which is common in automotive industry internationally. Thus, the time is to be respected as well as the accuracy, especially in painting lines. One working round consists of assembly and disassembly followed by a 2min break. After each round, the subjects fill out a questionnaire related to subjective effort and body discomfort during work. A total of seven rounds are completed in 1h. After completing the Parcour with an exoskeleton, the individual wearing comfort is assessed after the 1h work as well as a score of the System Usability Scale (SUS) is used related to the usability of the exoskeleton.

Parcour 3 - Exoskeletons for the upper Extremities in Welding

Parcour 3 - Exoskeletons for the upper Extremities in Welding

© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA

Manual welding is an important and difficult task in many industries. Work is often performed in a constrained overhead position or in front of the body. This can cause extreme stress in the upper extremities and musculoskeletal disorders in arm, shoulder, neck and back.

Parcour 3 represents real European standard training welding tasks in which joining tasks are simulated with a state-of-the-art welding training simulator and also with an angle grinder simulator. The most common and economically most relevant welding process MAG (metal active gas welding) is used. The tasks are composed from the test position PF stump seam rising in front of the upper body and the test position PE stump seam overhead. Each test position consists of two steps – simulated welding of a 250mm seam and simulated grinding of the weld seam. The worker have to execute the tasks as accurately as possible. Both procedures (PF and PE) are repeated ten times, so there is in total 1h of working. After the 1h, the subjects fill out a questionnaire about the perceived effort and body discomfort during the work. After exoskeleton usage additional questions are asked about the wearing comfort and usability of the worn system. After at least 1h break the subject would repeat the task with our without exoskeleton (randomised).

Parcours Research

Our research of further Parcours includes workplaces on construction sites, car repair shops, or agriculture. You can find some impressions from the first test phases below.

Experiments in group work with upper body exoskeletons in timber construction

This Parcour is developed in Excellence Cluster IntCDC and was defined in cooperation with SchwörerHaus KG, where overhead lifting activities of heavy timber beams and repetitive demanding tasks of overhead positioning are common. Two people are working simultaneously and synchronized in the same workplace.

 

© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA

Experiments of tires change in car repair shops

In cooperation with technician students from the vocational school Wilhelm-Maybach-Schule Bad Cannstatt, a workplace of changing tires was defined and developed.

 

 

© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA

Experiments of fieldwork in agriculture.

In agriculture, it is common to work in the field to plant and pick fruits, vegetables, or seeds and then carry them in boxes.   

The task of picking, placing in a field, and carrying boxes are demonstrated here.

 

© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA
© Fraunhofer IPA

Contributing Experts

We thank all partners for their conceptional and advisory support.

  • Institute of Industrial Manufacturing and Management, University of Stuttgart
  • Fraunhofer Institute of Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA
  • Dr. Hensel-Unger, AUDI AG
  • Israel Benavides, FORD-Werke GmbH
  • Mrs Richter, WELDPLUS
  • Mrs Pohlmann, SLV NORD
  • Mr Glitsch, Institute for occupational safety and health, German Social Accident Insurance
  • Mr Wischnieswski, Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Contributing Exoskeleton Manufacturers

We thank all exoskeleton manufactures so far for participation with their devices.
  • Airframe (Levitate)
  • CrayX (German Bionic System)
  • ExoBack (RB3D)
  • Hapo (ErgoSanté)
  • Hapo MS (ErgoSanté)
  • Japet (Japet),
  • Laevo Flex (Laevo)
  • MateXT (Comau)
  • Paexo Back (Ottbock)
  • SoftExo (HUNIC)
  • Paexo Shoulder (Ottobock)
  • Skelex 360-XFR (Skelex)

Learn more:

 

Results

The general results of the experiments already performed. 

 

Impressions

Impressions and pictures of the experiments already performed.

 

Contributing Partners

Contributing partners as experts, exoskeleton manufactures and industries. You want to be part?