Set to get underway in September 2013, the objective of the Robo-Mate project is to develop an intelligent, easy-to-manoeuvre, and wearable body exoskeleton for manual-handling work. The project comprises 12 partners from 7 European countries, including key players from industry and academia. Funded with €4.5 million by the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development of the European Union (FP7), the 39-month Robo-Mate project will be led by Prof. Dr. Hans Wernher van den Venn, Head of the Institute of Mechatronic Systems (IMS) at the Zurich University of Applied Science (ZHAW), and managed by accelopment AG in Switzerland.
The fundamental idea behind Robo-Mate is to enhance work conditions for load workers and facilitate repetitive lifting tasks, thereby reducing the incidence of work-place related injury and disease. As a consequence, productivity, flexibility and the quality of production will increase. Bringing this concept to fruition involves merging human-guided manipulators with computer-controlled industrial robots in order to create a human-guided and computer-supported exoskeleton for use in various industries. Exoskeletons can readily be found in certain fields and their development to date has been mainly driven by military and medical applications. However, such models are ill-suited for industrial use due to excessive weight or inadequate functionality, such as not being able to provide the lifting and/or manual handling support indispensable to industrial settings. Therefore, developing an exoskeleton specifically destined for use in industrial environments is crucial.