SBIR Phase II: Trunk-Supporting Exoskeleton System for Workers

Period of Performance: 04/06/2015 - 03/31/2017


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

U. S. Bionics
2806 Ashby Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to improve the lives of workers who bend and stoop while performing their jobs. These activities lead to back injuries which account of 36% of work place injuries. This project will result in an assistive technology to reduce injuries in these workers. There are many workers in shipbuilding and construction sites who perform tasks which cannot be assisted by available technology. Robotics and automation fields do not have solutions in the near horizon to automate these tasks. Therefore, workers are an essential part of these industries. The technology proposed here will make the workers? environment much more pleasant, prevent them from getting disabled and maintain their quality of life. As back injuries cost the US alone 20 billion dollars annually in direct and indirect costs, the technology proposed will not only benefit workers but also employers. Addressing a pain point that costs billions of dollars globally each year gives this project strong commercial potential. The evaluations performed during this project will reveal the technology?s effect on workers? back. This will create an opportunity for other institutions to investigate fundamentals of human back pain or back injuries. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 project will improve the lives of workers and reduce financial burden on companies by developing a Trunk Support Exoskeleton (TSE) to reduce back injuries in workers caused by stooping and bending. Back injuries account for a large number of work place injuries. The goal of this project is to develop technologies based on user and customer recommendations, issues encountered during field evaluation, and experimentally evaluate the technology. The tasks include analysis, design and evaluation to reduce separation between the exoskeleton and the user, experiments and design to ease workers during prolonged low angle stooping and determining the requirements for walking while bending. It is expected that these features will make the technology more attractive and useable to users and customers. In addition, to evaluating the technology to validate the features above, experiments to quantify the performance of the technology during activities similar to those that workers would encounter will be performed. It is expected that the technology will reduce the participants? strain on their lower back without reducing their performance.