Exoskeletons are not new in many industries. Car manufacturers and the construction sector use it for quite some time now. But can they enter the cleaning business also?
The superpower of Exoskeletons
Exoskeletons are basically wearable industrial frames made of hard materials, such as metals, plastics and fibres. They are worn on the body to support the user with tasks that cant’ be automated – as Interclean explains. The „superpower” of these constructions lies in the ability to amplify human performance and help moving heavy loads in a safe way. Among the benefits of working with less muscle power are working with less stress on joints and tendons, and getting tired less quickly.
Exoskeletons are different from collaborative robots (cobots) because they’re fully controlled by the person wearing them. Currently, there are “active” and “passive” exoskeletons. Active exoskeletons work with motors and have sensors, whereas passive ones use a spring material. The latter is catching on more quickly because of lower costs and less complexity. Passive exoskeletons are lighter and easier to use. However, they cannot adapt to the circumstances, such as the weight to be lifted. Although 10 years ago exoskeletons covered the whole body, the more recent developments are focusing on different parts of the body providing support in a specific region.
Exoskeletons affect the quality of work and life
The work of cleaners is intense and physically demanding, making them more prone to joint ailments and other physical complaints. Exoskeletons could significantly ease this strain if used in industrial cleaning, window cleaning of multi-storey commercial properties and general building maintenance.
The use of exoskeletons has been the subject of several tests in recent years among cleaners of varying ages with varying complaints, backgrounds, and activities. The results showed that employees using them were less tired after their shifts, and experienced fewer physical complaints at work.
So why aren’t they here yet?
Although the use of exoskeletons in the cleaning industry could almost be endless, the costs of this technology cannot be ignored. The price of such a structure is between EUR 5 000 and EUR 10 000, which, given the average budget for professional cleaning, makes it significantly more difficult to spread it. So cleaning operatives can be supported with aids such as exoskeletons, but this will not become the new standard for now – Interclean concludes.