In 2016, Robo-Mate modules were tested in both industry and laboratories. The main result: The modules are effective and efficient, but usability has to be improved. Detailed results are described in the Final Report of the Robo-Mate project; for a summary, see below.
Two modules were tested in the lab: the trunk module and the passive arms.
- Trunk module: Lab tests showed the trunk module to be effective with regard to physical exertion. At dynamic lifting tasks, test subjects reported reduced physical exertion for both the trunk and the legs. When they had to only bend over and hold their position, the trunk module reduced physical exertion of the trunk only at a flexion angle of more than 20°. For less than 20°, the negative effect of the weight of the trunk module seemed to outweigh the positive effect of the supporting torque. While the trunk module was effective at reducing perceived physical exertion for angles of more than 20°, it also increased physical exertion for the legs. Usability is clearly the area where the trunk module needs most improvement: For both dynamic lifting and static bending, test subjects did not reach an acceptable usability score.
- Passive arms: Passive arms were effective at reducing perceived exertion for the arms, but slightly increased exertion for legs and trunk. Usability scores for the passive arms were significantly higher than for the trunk module: Half of test subjects reached an acceptable usability score.
All of Robo-Mate's three modules were tested in three companies:
- CRF concluded that all three modules could have a beneficial effect on workers' health and on efficiency – after a few improvements in usability, though. A cost-benefit analysis for the passive arms showed that implementation costs would be recovered in less than one year and make this module particularly interesting from an economic point of view. Workers preferred the trunk module since it reduced physical effort and also decreased task duration.
- INDRA concluded that the passive arm module would be a good choice for tasks where objects have to be carried or held for a longer period of time. The active arms was valued for its support at lifting objects with a straight back. The trunk module, again, was the favourite of workers, since it provided the best support for bending and lifting tasks and did not restrict movements.
- COMPA was met with a lot of enthusiasm of workers who were testing the modules. Their key recommendation for further development of the modules was in line with lab tests: Reduce weight and dimensions of the modules.