Modeling the Metabolic Reductions of a Passive Back-Support Exoskeleton


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Despite several attempts to quantify the metabolic savings resulting from the use of passive back-support exoskeletons (BSEs), no study has modeled the metabolic change while wearing an exoskeleton during lifting. The objectives of this study were to: 1) quantify the metabolic reductions due to the VT-Lowe's exoskeleton during lifting; and 2) provide a comprehensive model to estimate the metabolic reductions from using a passive BSE. In this study, 15 healthy adults (13M, 2F) of ages 20 to 34 years (mean=25.33, SD=4.43) performed repeated freestyle lifting and lowering of an empty box and a box with 20% of their bodyweight. Oxygen consumption and metabolic expenditure data were collected. A model for metabolic expenditure was developed and fitted with the experimental data of two prior studies and the without-exoskeleton experimental results. The metabolic cost model was then modified to reflect the effect of the exoskeleton. The experimental results revealed that VT-Lowe's exoskeleton significantly lowered the oxygen consumption by ~9% for an empty box and 8% for a 20% bodyweight box, which corresponds to a net metabolic cost reduction of ~12% and ~9%, respectively. The mean metabolic difference (i.e., without-exo minus with-exo) and the 95% confidence interval were 0.36 and (0.2-0.52) [Watts/kg] for 0% bodyweight, and 0.43 and (0.18-0.69) [Watts/kg] for 20% bodyweight. Our modeling predictions for with-exoskeleton conditions were precise, with absolute freestyle prediction errors of <2.1%. The model developed in this study can be modified based on different study designs, and can assist researchers in enhancing designs of future lifting exoskeletons.



back support exoskeleton, energy expenditure, lifting exoskeleton, metabolic cost modeling, metabolic cost reduction, 06 Biological Sciences, 11 Medical and Health Sciences, Physiology