Motors drive exoskeletons to help paraplegics walk

29th September 2016
Posted By : Anna Flockett
Motors drive exoskeletons to help paraplegics walk

Researchers are to present the world’s best exoskeletons– devices that enable paraplegics to walk again at the first Cybathlon in Zürich. Motors from Switzerland play a central part in this development. Taking place 8th October, and with motors from Switzerland playing a central part in this development, people with paraplegia are going on a footrace at the Cybathlon in Zürich. 

Aided by exoskeletons, they compete against each other on an obstacle course to show the public how far advanced technology has become in this area.

From the planet Mars into an exoskeleton

Robotic suits have to be powerful and lightweight at the same time. Too much weight would drain the battery in no time. This presents a big challenge to developers. Most of the motors that are strong enough to power an exoskeleton are large and heavy. This is why engineers are turning to the Swiss company that already developed the drives for NASA's Mars rovers: maxon motor.

“We spent decades perfecting our motors”, says maxon CEO Eugen Elmiger. “A lot of money has gone into research and development. It was worth it: These days, the motors from Switzerland can be found everywhere, in robots, airplanes, cars, and medical devices.”

Knowledge yields an advantage in the market

Providing competent technical support for customers is just as important as delivering high-quality products. Small businesses and start-ups often approach maxon with specific drive technology problems that they lack the expert knowledge to solve by themselves.

maxon motor in turn is able to help with its extensive experience in the field, a strength that lets the company stand out from the international competition.

Elmiger added: “Our knowledge and the ability to give expert advice are a great advantage in the market.”

The Cybathlon is a good example: In the field of exoskeletons, the Swiss company has a pretty clear idea about what's important besides choosing the right motor. As a result, quite a few of the participating teams are using products from Switzerland. The same is true for other disciplines, such as prosthetic arms or legs and electrical wheelchairs.

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