The goal of the PowerGrasp project was the development and evaluation of a wearable soft-robotic assistance system for arm, shoulder and hand support. Despite the modernisation of work processes and the use of new technologies, a large number of musculoskeletal disorders can be traced back to occupational activities. The aim of the project was to reduce the physical strain of assembly workers by means of power assistance, thus preventing possible consequential damage and preserve the workers’ health.
Within the design process, several participatory workshops were conducted with potential users and experts, to learn about their thoughts, needs and visions regarding a possible assistive system. The participants were asked to visualize their ideas and suggestions prototypically on their own bodies with the help of a toolkit specifically designed for this purpose.
The analysis of the workshops led to a concise collection of requirements for a body worn support system in the fields of use, design and construction, interaction and feedback. Based on these findings, we started to build first low-cost prototypes and experimented with different techniques and materials to move different parts of the body.
In several iterations, two components of a wearable and soft assistance system were developed:
1) An elbow-component for arm-support that is made from silicon and can be actuated with air.
2) A system for shoulder-support that can be worn as a jacket and consists of several integrated air-chambers that provide support to the body and the shoulder.
Later in the project and in cooperation with the involved partners, a working demonstrator of the assistive soft-robotic system was build. In a workshop with assembly workers the system was evaluated in terms of wearing comfort and the experience of use.
Katharina Lorenz (Research Associate)
Rahel Flechtner (Research Associate)
Evangelische Hochschule Nürnberg
Volkswagen AG, Wolfsburg (associate partner)
The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).