Audi testing carbon-fiber exoskeleton “chairless chair” for assembly workers at Neckarsulm
28 February 2015
Audi is testing a new technology that eases many assembly activities at its plant in Neckarsulm: the “chairless chair.” The carbon-fiber exoskeleton allows employees to sit without a chair. At the same time, it improves their posture and reduces the strain on their legs.
The chairless chair, which Audi has further developed together with a Swiss start‑up company, is an exoskeleton that is worn on the back of the legs. It is fastened with belts to the hips, knees and ankles. Two leather‑covered surfaces support the buttocks and thighs while two struts made of carbon‑fiber‑reinforced plastic (CFRP) adapt to the contours of the leg. They are jointed behind the knee and can be hydraulically adjusted to the wearer’s body size and the desired sitting position.
Body weight is transferred into the floor through these adjustable elements. The chairless chair itself weighs just 2.4 kilograms.
While working, employees wear the chairless chair like a second pair of legs to provide support whenever needed. For many assembly operations, it allows employees to sit in an ergonomically favorable position instead of standing—even with short working intervals. At the same time, this high‑tech supporting structure improves posture and reduces strain on the legs. Chairs and stools, which are currently used in some assembly operations as temporary aids, become unnecessary.
Starting this week, Audi employees are gaining experience with three pilot prototypes of the chairless chair on A4 and A6 assembly lines at the Neckarsulm plant—with cockpit pre-assembly for example. Until now, the employees there worked only while standing. They now have significantly less physical stress due to the supportive carbon-fiber device, which allows them to alternate between sitting and standing while working. Audi will start a test phase also at the Ingolstadt plant in May. After that, the company will deploy the chairless chair in series production.
The pilot project is being supported by an interdisciplinary team and is part of the area of activity under the heading of “workplace of the future” within the company’s ergonomics strategy.
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