Audi is the latest company to test a new technology to ease many assembly activities at its Neckarsulm plant: the “Chairless Chair.” The device’s carbon-fiber construction allows employees to sit without a chair while improving their posture and reducing 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 and fastened with belts to the hips, knees and ankles. Two leather‑covered surfaces support the buttocks and thighs while two struts made of CFRP adapt to the contours of the leg. They are jointed behind the knee and can hydraulically adjust 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 kg (5.3 lbs).
Audi employees are gaining experience with three pilot prototypes of the Chairless Chair on A4 and A6 assembly lines at the Neckarsulm plant. Until now, the employees there worked only while standing. For these tests, employees wear the Chairless Chair like a second pair of legs to provide support whenever needed while working. For many assembly operations, it allows employees to sit in an ergonomically favorable position instead of standing – even with short working intervals.
Audi hopes that use of the exoskeleton will reduce employee absenteeism for physical reasons. “With the use of the Chairless Chair, we are continuously improving ergonomics in assembly operations,” says Dr. Mathias Keil, head of industrial engineering methods at AUDI AG. “We also anticipate new applications for colleagues with reduced physical capabilities.”