"Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."
This is probably one of the most recognized quotes, and one that conjures up a sense of exploration, pride, and a can-do attitude. Just like the members of the Starship Enterprise, it is that sense of exploration that motivates the authors of "Exoskeleton Technology – Making Workers Safer and More Productive," to explore unchartered territory of using exoskeleton technology in the workplace. The mission of the authors was to test if upper body exoskeleton technology, in fact, makes a worker safer, and in given applications, more productive through the reduction of muscle activation and fatigue associated with an employee's job. This paper will provide some insight into the depths the authors went on their mission to provide evidence for or to disprove this hypothesis.
Unlike subjective and limited ergonomic assessment tools, such as the Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA) and Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA), the authors worked with Jason C. Gillette, Ph.D., Associate Professor, and Mitchell L. Stephenson MS, CSCS, in the Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State University, to gather quantifiable data to test the physical benefits of upper body exoskeleton technology on reducing fatigue. This paper presents those findings, along with the need "to boldly go where no one has gone before," with expanding current ergonomic assessment tool effectiveness by quantifying the physical benefits of applied exoskeleton technology, in addition to subjective risk assessment scores derived from these standard ergonomic risk assessment tools. The authors will discuss the results of measuring muscle activity, using EMG sensors on the shop floor while employees performed their jobs, with and without the aid of an upper body exoskeleton. Findings from measuring productivity with and without an exoskeleton on users performing dynamic work will also be presented.