Worker 4.0: A Textile Exoskeleton to Support Apparel Industry

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Authors: João Nuno OliveiraLuani CostaAna RamôaRicardo SilvaAureliano FertuzinhosBruno ValeInês EstudanteJoão PinheiroAndré PilastriPaula DiasArthur MattaRosane SampaioDário MachadoPaulo CortezMarta CostaAna RoçasPedro MadureiraJuliana MoreiraJoão PereiraCarla PereiraFernando Pereira

Abstract: STVgoDigital project aims the transition of the textile and apparel industries to the new Industry 4.0 paradigm promoting the digitalization to increase productivity and efficiency of the entire value chain. Specifically the PPS4 - Worker 4.0, aims to develop disruptive solutions based on sensing and active components within a garment to support repetitive movements that may cause injuries and/or pain in apparel workers. Textile Industry employs 1.7 million people in Europe [1]. Seamstress’s activities are among the most prone to develop pain and fatigue symptoms along time, mainly on the neck, shoulders, and wrists, facing higher musculoskeletal risks caused by precision handwork and static, low-level work postures [2-3]. In Europe, 50% of workers’ absences to work are due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) that last for longer periods than absences caused by any other health issue. WRMSDs are responsible for 60% of their permanent incapacity [4]. In a study performed by Oo, 93.8% of the analyzed seamstress’ work experienced WRMSDs [5].In this sense, a textile-based exoskeleton with ergonomic concerns and a challenging textile-based implementation was developed to reduce the physical efforts required to perform different sewing operations in industrial processes. Besides, it would correspond to essential biomechanical specifications to adapt to the human body and avoid common trade-offs related to human-device interfaces. The textile-based exoskeleton that will support the transition to Worker 4.0 generation integrates: a) a sensing system for the detection of movements in real-time, to make it possible to identify the ergonomic posture of the worker, as well as the risk associated with the execution of repetitive working tasks; b) an actuation system to increase body strength and support the upper limb segments correctly, reducing physical efforts and fatigue, eliminating unnecessary movements, and contributing to develop a better ergonomic assessment of the working postures and layout; c) learning and actuation algorithms, with some degree of variability, focused on several movement natures, such as the abduction and elevation of the upper limbs, and finally d) a global integration of the solutions in a wearable, light and flexible garment capable to ensure comfort and adequate execution of the sewing operations while adequately resisting active sensing and actuation systems.Using prototypes, the developed textile-based exoskeleton will be tested in a laboratory and real environment to study and evaluate digital interfaces; measure muscle load and the impact of using the exoskeleton; and evaluate and classify the usability and comfort. A testing protocol was submitted to an ethics committee. AcknowledgmentThis work was developed in the framework of STVgoDIGITAL project (no 46086), which was co-financed by Portugal 2020, under the Operational Program for Competitiveness and Internationalization (COMPETE 2020) through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Keywords: Exoskeleton, Artificial Intelligence, Textile

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003636

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