Skeletons are supporting structures for organisms - either inside the body, as in humans, or on the outside, as in the case of insects and crustaceans. Biologists call the former endoskeletons and the latter exoskeletons. The idea of providing humans in need of assistance with an additional, outer skeleton has been around for some time. The concept originally focused primarily on medical requirements, but it gradually dawned on researchers that if an exoskeleton enables a paraplegic to walk upright, it could also help anyone at all handle heavy objects. Ottobock followed a similar thought process. For 100 years now, the global market leader specializing in prosthetics and orthotics has been developing med-tech products and fitting concepts for people with limited mobility. The MedicalCare division also provides patient care. To coincide with the company's centenary, Ottobock is exhibiting its industrial exoskeletons at HANNOVER MESSE 2019 for the first time. Visitors to Hall 17 can test the Paexo range of passive exoskeletons and experience first hand how they relieve the strain on their bodies. "Exoskeletons designed for industrial settings will bring about permanent changes in many working environments. They can play a major role in preventing workplace injuries in many sectors, and help make workplaces more ergonomic. Based on our 100 years of biomechanical and orthopedic expertise, we are driving this change," says Dr. Sönke Rössing, Head of Ottobock Industrials.
As well as support devices for wrists and the shoulder area, Ottobock is also showcasing the new Paexo Thumb - currently the world's smallest exoskeleton. It is designed to help people who place strain on their thumbs at work on a daily basis. Clipping, inserting and plugging components on assembly lines can cause this kind of strain, for example. By redirecting the forces into the entire hand, the small and extremely lightweight exoskeleton is said to result in up to 70 percent less pressure being exerted on the thumb. What's more, users automatically assume an ergonomic hand position when wearing the Paexo Thumb. In addition to relieving the strain on thumb joints, it also protects the tip of the thumb from mechanical influences. The Paexo Thumb was developed and tested in collaboration with companies from the automotive and home appliance industries. The new device was tried out in paint shops and on assembly lines, for example. "The potential of the Paexo Thumb was clearly evident in these settings. It's a simple yet innovative solution for preventing joint problems in the hand," explains Rössing. The Paexo Thumb is one of the first Ottobock products to be fabricated in series production using a 3D printer. The exoskeleton "printed" in Germany is due to be available in seven different sizes shortly after HANNOVER MESSE 2019.