Worker-friendly Exoskeleton

Designed and developed at the Comau HUMANufacturing Innovation Center in Pontedera (Pisa), Comau’s brand new MATE exoskeleton was officially launched at Automatica 2018. Due to its advanced spring-based passive structure as well as the great attention to ergonomics since the design stage, the devices aims at reducing shoulder muscle activity, thus improving the quality and precision of repetitive tasks.

by Cesare Pizzorno

In compliance with the concept of HUMANufacturing – which sees people as the key protagonists of the entire production process, aided by cutting-edge digital tools, enabling technologies and smart industrial robots – Comau focused the company’s offering at Automatica 2018 into a digital-oriented path. The aim was to integrate the various solutions, from robots and wearable technologies up to virtual reality applications, in order to increase throughput and quality within the smart factory. Alongside some “digital twin” applications – based on the use of advanced software to mirror a manufacturing line and collect, analyze and process data – as well as e.DO, the small, modular articulated open-source robot for the educational, consumer and light industry applications, Comau unveiled MATE, its first innovative wearable exoskeleton, designed to improve work quality in an efficient and highly ergonomic manner by providing consistent and advanced movement assistance during repetitive as well as daily tasks.

Lightweight, breathable and highly effective postural support
The MATE Fit for Workers exoskeleton uses an advanced spring-based passive structure. MATE delivers lightweight, breathable and highly effective postural support without the need for batteries, motors or other failure-prone devices. It is also compact and ergonomically designed thanks to the partnership between Comau, Össur, a leading non-invasive orthopedics company and IUVO, a spin-off company of the BioRobotics Institute (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna) specialized in wearable technologies. MATE, designed and developed at the Comau HUMANufacturing Innovation Center in Pontedera (Pisa), is fully able to replicate any movement of the shoulder while adhering to the body like a “second skin”.

Growth forecasts in industry
“MATE has been designed in close collaboration with factory workers, thus responding directly to their specific needs. With our exoskeleton, they will be able to do the same tasks but with less fatigue. For Comau, this is also an extraordinary opportunity to reach a global market that, according to the IFR, grew more than 60% from 2015 to 2017 and is estimated to continue growing at a rate of 25% each year until 2020. We believe that the industrial sector will represent about one third of the exoskeleton’s applications”, said Tobias Daniel, Comau’s Vice President Robotics and Automation Products Global Sales & Marketing.
MATE is also the first of a series of wearable robotics that Comau is developing and commercializing in partnership with IUVO and Össur. A fundamental aspect of the collaboration is the joint desire to progress and evolve human-machine collaboration within diverse sectors, including biomedical, manufacturing and consumer.