Carbon fiber exoskeleton supports Audi assembly line employees

Assembly line workers at Audi's Neckarsulm, Germany, plant are testing three "Chairless Chairs" — carbon fiber exoskeletons designed to allow employees to sit without actually sitting on a chair.

Carmaker Audi is calling it the “Chairless Chair" — a carbon fiber exoskeleton, being tested at the company’s Neckarsulm, Germany, plant. Strapped to the back of each leg, the device allows employees to sit (relax leg muscles) without actually sitting in a chair. It’s also designed to improve posture and reduce leg strain.

The exoskeleton, which acts like a second pair of legs, was developed by Audi with start-up firm noonee AG (Rüti, Switzerland) and 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 composites 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 exoskeleton weighs 2.4 kg.

For some assembly operations, it allows employees to sit in an ergonomically favorable position instead of standing. Chairs and stools, which are currently used in some assembly operations as temporary aids, become unnecessary. At the same time, Audi says it hopes that use of the exoskeleton will reduce employee absenteeism caused physical strain.

Audi employees are testing three exoskeletons on A4 and A6 assembly lines. Audi also will start a test phase at its Ingolstadt, Germany, plant in May. After that, the company will deploy the exoskeleton in series production.