This year, Ottobock won the prestigious iF Design Award not just once but an impressive twice – delighting the international jury of experts with the innovative and user-friendly designs of its Paexo Back and Paexo Neck exoskeletons. The iF Design Award is conferred annually by the iF International Forum Design GmbH, an independent institution based in Hannover and the oldest of its kind worldwide. A large number of products were entered for the coveted award, with the jury having to choose from nearly 10,000 submissions from 52 different countries.
“When we develop products, our focus is always on the user,” explains Dr Sönke Rössing, head of Ottobock Industrials. “Functionality and comfort both play key roles. For example, Paexo exoskeletons reduce the load on your back when you lift heavy weights or ease shoulder strain when you perform overhead work – but at the same time, they don’t restrict your range of motion and can be adjusted intuitively.”
The Ottobock Industrials’ development team worked hand in hand with experts from Dresden University of Technology to design the award-winning products. Reflecting on the special complexities of the project, Emese Papp, a research assistant at the Faculty of Technical Design, explains, “Developing wearable exoskeletons is particularly challenging. That is why we embedded the work into our user experience research, to learn more about user acceptance and how people identify with wearable technology of this nature. The streamlined, progressive and professional design of the exoskeleton helps users feel competent and empowered, which in turn means they’re more likely to accept and wear the product.”
Relieving the strain of lifting or working overhead
The Paexo Back exoskeleton was developed especially for use in daily routines in the logistics sector. A new study conducted with workers in warehouses and parcel distribution centres shows that it can reduce the load on the spinal column by up to 100 %. The system operates according to a biomechanical principle ‒ as with a backpack, the load is supported on the shoulders and redirected to the thighs with the help of a support structure. Expanders exploit the “energy harvesting” process by storing the energy you generate when you bend over, and releasing it again when you straighten back up. As a result, Ottobock exoskeletons do not require high-maintenance batteries or motors.
The Paexo Neck is a neck support that relieves the strain when you perform any type of overhead work, such as installing ceilings or working in a high-bay warehouse. It significantly reduces the load on your neck muscles and cervical spine. Various adjustment options allow the shoulder and neck area to be individually adapted for each user. This makes the Paexo Neck very comfortable to wear. It can be comfortably combined with the Paexo Shoulder exoskeleton.
In 2012, Ottobock began researching solutions to provide relief for people who perform physically demanding tasks, the aim being to create healthier working conditions. The medtech company now offers a wide range of exoskeletons and ergonomics solutions. Further information is available at paexo.com.
All our products are designed to be used by both men and women. Especially the contact points of the products to the human body and in the biomechanical principle of action, they are designed in such a way that both men and women can wear our products and use them effectively.
After a period of familiarisation, putting on and taking off takes less than twenty seconds each.
The Ottobock Back is a passive exoskeleton, because the energy storage works without an external power source and therefore does not need to be charged.
How are they developing the products further in terms of digital networking – what functions could exoskeletons have in ten years?
Networking and the use of anonymised data are of great importance, because they can earlier identify risks arising from physically strenuous work. These are areas in which we are already doing research, and they will not only find their way into our products in ten years time. The functions also have an additional benefit for the user himself/herself, it can help the user to move more economically, to protect himself/herself against injuries or simply as a practical working aid.
As of May 2020 you can use the Ottobock Back exoskeleton in your logistics processes. There are three different test packages, “Experience Basic”, “Experience Standard” and “Experience Analytics”. We support you from the introduction at the workplace to the organizational implementation and the evaluation of the results. If you would like an offer for one of the three test options, please contact us using our contact form.
There are different packages for the Ottobock Back. There will be a leasing offer as well as the possibility to buy. Customers and interested parties can choose from test packages of different sizes. In the course of these test packages, we accompany the introduction at the workstations and the evaluation of the use of Paexo Back. We would be happy to make you an offer. Please contact us using our contact form or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Ottobock is a world market leader in the field of technical orthopaedics. Our exoskeletons for rehabilitation are already on the market, e.g. the C-Brace from orthotics. After all, exoskeletons are based on the functional principle of orthoses, a field in which Ottobock can already demonstrate more than 100 years of experience. Our Paexo products are increasingly focusing on prevention at a wide variety of workplaces.
When will exoskeletons be available for private use, for shopping, or for loading things from the car?
The commercialization of our exoskeleteons is a goal we have firmly in mind. The world of exoskeletons is new and exciting, and our extensive experience in industry, crafts and logistics will help us optimize the product for private use. We will be happy to keep you up to date on this.
Does the use of exoskeletons possibly result in job cuts because the work can be done more effectively?
The opposite is the case. On the one hand, we see in many sectors, including logistics or warehouses at industrial companies, that automation approaches are interesting and are being tried out, but also often reach their limits. We don’t know what will happen in ten years time, but the acute question of relieving employees through personal measures is already arising today. In this respect, these measures are a means of maintaining the employment of people who work in such logistics processes. We are observing that people who have fallen ill return to the labour market in good health, but may not be able to return to where they were originally employed. That is where we start with our exoskeletons and there is a very good potential for Ottobock Back.
No, the user does not get superpowers. The principle of our products is to support the user and thereby relieve the user. The Ottobock Back works in the area of the lower spine and produces a measurable positive relief effect when lifting heavy loads. When bending, energy is stored in the system and returned to the user as soon as the person straightens up again. The lower spinal column area is noticeably relieved up to 25 kg.
Our products are developed according to biomechanical principles. Two important issues are the application and transfer of forces and the interfaces on the body. The principle of force redirection is crucial for all our exoskeletons. Please have a look at the Ottobock Shoulder studies on our website to get an impression of our work.
Can Ottobock Back also be used in other industries, for example in the care sector or at the airport for loading luggage?
In the care sector we are researching possible applications for Ottobock Back. We are not yet using it in this area. Nurses are exposed to an enormous strain on the spine, which can lead to serious diseases and injuries in the back. This is what we are researching and we will be happy to keep you up to date with the developments on our channels. The airport is a classic application for the Ottobock Back. Areas of application are baggage loading on the aircraft and processing in the airport.
The Ottobock Back is “Made in Germany” and was developed in Duderstadt.
The textiles of the Ottobock Back are removable, washable and reusable. The technique can be wiped with a damp cloth. It is possible to order a hygiene set for the replacement of the textiles.