A new initiative, EXSKALLERATE, aims to accelerate the adoption of exoskeletons into construction across Europe’s North Sea Region.
The European project, co-funded by the Interreg North Sea Region Programme (2014-2020), was launched in January and is meant to introduce the use of exoskeletons to construction and industrial manufacturing SMEs in an area where workers’ exposure to this type of technology is typically uncommon.
According to a report from RoboticsTomorrow.com, as many as 44 million workers in the European Union (EU) are affected by workplace-related musculoskeletal disorders. Workers in the construction and industrial manufacturing industries are particularly prone to severe health issues due to the heavily physical work they perform.
Exoskeletons have the capacity to decrease these injuries and increase quality of life at work, thereby reducing costs in the long run. Wearable technology in general has the potential to transform the construction industry by improving safety and efficiency for workers. This technology sector is set to be worth US$54 billion by 2023.
The physically strenuous activities involved with construction increase workers’ risk of health problems, disability and sick leave, leading to lower job attractiveness and a shortage of job candidates. This can result in unfilled job openings that slow growth and competitiveness for SMEs, particularly for many businesses in the North Sea Region, where awarenss of the latest solutions via exoskeleton adoption is low.
According to research conducted by the EXSKALLERATE partners, exoskeleton use could alleviate 10-40% of muscle peak loads for passive exoskeletons, and up to 80% for active.
“People have to work for longer periods in our ageing society. We strive to help people in the manufacturing and building industries to do that in a healthy and happy way by accelerating the uptake of exoskeletons,” Anton Duisterwinkel, coordinator of EXSKALLERATE at InnovationQuarter, was quoted. ”Once established in these industries, we expect that other industries, such as logistics and agriculture, will follow rapidly.