'SUITX by Ottobock’ presents exoskeleton innovations at the Hannover Messe trade show

The lightest back exoskeleton of its kind takes the strain off employees in industry and logistics


Industrial exoskeletons are a key to meeting current challenges in industry and logistics: They provide relief for employees in physically demanding jobs, protect their health and reduce absenteeism. At the same time, they reduce production costs and are part of employer branding for many companies. More and more companies understand that exoskeletons make jobs more attractive and help recruit and retain skilled workers.

SUITX by Ottobock’ will be presenting these topics at this year’s Hannover Messe trade show from 22 to 26 April 2024. The health tech company will be presenting its innovative product portfolio at stand F28 in hall 7, inviting visitors to test its exoskeletons. One highlight is the new back exoskeleton IX BACK AIR, which combines the power of rigid systems with the comfort of soft models.

The future is now: Exoskeletons are a growth market

Industrial exoskeletons are currently entering a new phase of growth. “Technical devices are no longer just a vision or a test for many companies. They have now reached industry and logistics, and the global rollout is continuing rapidly,” says David Duwe, Vice President SUITX by Ottobock Europe. “At many of our customers, exoskeletons have even become such an established part of occupational health and safety that employees can easily order them from in-house shops. The next step is the widespread deployment of exoskeletons in critical workplaces. As the market leader in this field, our aim is to drive the development of the industry accordingly.”

Tens of thousands of ‘SUITX by Ottobock’ exoskeletons are used by customers, for example by automakers such as Toyota North America and logistics service providers such as DB Schenker. The health tech company has been developing exoskeletons that relieve strain on various parts of the body since 2018. ‘SUITX by Ottobock’ relies on biomechanical systems that redirect forces in the body and temporarily store energy. An innovative technique releases the body's own energy in a targeted manner when stress peaks occur in the shoulder or for the spine.

IX BACK AIR: the lightest back exoskeleton of its kind

In cooperation with leading logistics partners, ‘SUITX by Ottobock’ has further developed the successful BackX exoskeleton. The successor model IX BACK AIR is more effective, more comfortable and lighter. It significantly reduces the load on the lower back by up to 56 per cent. The back-support exoskeleton is specifically designed for people involved in dynamic work processes in the logistics industry who have to move loads manually while operating industrial trucks, for example. A built-in mode automatically detects when the wearer needs support and when they need freedom of movement.

Weighing in at just under three kilograms, the new back exoskeleton is the lightest model of its kind on the market. By using the body's own energy, the exoskeleton can be worn all day without the need for batteries. The IX BACK AIR can be put on and taken off in less than 20 seconds. It can be easily adapted to different user heights and is particularly comfortable.

The IX BACK AIR is the first product launched under the new brand umbrella, ‘SUITX by Ottobock’. The new business unit combines the innovative strength of both companies. The new exoskeleton has been available around the world since 9 October 2023. It can be tested in everyday working life as part of an Experience Package (starting at 2,900 EUR). Specialized ergonomics experts accompany the test phase from training to evaluation.

Sensor analyses and AI evaluation prove the effect

Over 200 studies, of which several dozen were conducted in the field with workers, confirm the positive effects exoskeletons have in the world of work. “We have developed the bionic analytics procedure to make it visible to companies and users,” Duwe says. “In this way, we create an ideal basis for sound management decisions.”

Three measuring sensors are used to precisely analyse employees’ work processes – both with and without an exoskeleton – for up to eight hours a day over a period of several weeks. This is followed by an AI-based evaluation of the anonymously collected data. In addition, a qualitative survey of the participating employees is conducted. Finally, the processed data show how wearing exoskeletons affects work. This makes it possible to identify workstations where the solutions improve ergonomics.

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