Dairy Spares launched the MATE-XT exo-skeleton at Dairy Tech in February of 2023. It was a first for the dairy industry.
The MATE-XT provides support to the wearer’s upper body when lifting or moving low-weight items repetitively, thereby reducing the effort required and reducing muscular fatigue. Body posture is also improved by wearing the device, helping avert back problems.
Thus the new MATE-XT will be ideal for those working in milking parlours where it will support the repetitive lifting and holding of clusters and teat scrubbers, actions requiring a person’s arms to be outstretched, which can put a strain on the back and shoulders.
The MATE-XT does not require motors or batteries, it works via springs.
It is worn on the back like a rucksack, and with a belt around the hips. It is lightweight (2.9kg) and its ergonomic design ensures it is comfortable to wear, following the movements of the torso and arms.
Once attached correctly, sized according to the height of the wearer and adjusted for the weight of the task, its overall effect is to alleviate the weight of a person’s arms.
This makes a real difference for users carrying out repetitive movements or working long hours using the upper arms, upper back and shoulders.
Developed by Italian company Comau, exo-skeletons are commonplace in the car manufacturing industry. However, the MATE-XT is the first one to be made available to UK farmers. This specific model has been carefully selected. For example, one feature is a carbon-fibre spine which takes the load from the shoulders and spreads it equally across the hips.
The MATE-XT is also designed so that it starts to provide support at a relatively low angle: holding an object at just 40° from the vertical, the wearer will begin to detect its weight-relieving assistance; the degree of support given increases to a maximum at 90° (when arms are held straight out in front).
The MATE-XT reduces muscular effort by 30% at shoulder level; the perceived effort is reduced by 25%. The physical act of wearing the exo-skeleton also improves a person’s posture and helps reduce back problems.
There are benefits not only to the well-being of individuals but also to employers through increased productivity: with less muscle fatigue and tiredness, precision and quality of work improve, and work rates can increase.
Farm workers in France, where the MATE-XT was introduced two years ago, report of having fewer musculo-skeletal problems in the lower back and shoulders and feeling less tired after work.
The device has been popular with people in their 50s and 60s who want to continue milking and appreciate having the job made lighter. While the younger generation appreciate having the support of the MATE-XT to help prevent back/shoulder problems arising.
The MATE-XT is available in two sizes: