The rail industry is facing important challenges as the average age of the workforce keeps growing while less young workers are interested in the physically demanding work required. Smart technologies can help to reduce work demands, avoid incidents and accidents, and support workers during heavy activities. STREAM support LEAN execution of intelligent maintenance process by introducing technologies that cause negligible modification of current working procedures, yet strongly improve operation planning, safety and performance. STREAM will develop two smart technologies employing environment perception and human intention principles enabling prevention and risk mitigation.
First, STREAM will develop a control platform (OTA3M) adapted to existing rail excavators, by exploiting sensors, hydraulic actuators and software which will allow excavators to conduct multi-purpose autonomous operations enabling safe worker-machine collaboration. The OTA3M controls the excavator motion autonomously along tracks and introduces the autonomous capacity of manipulating heavy components relying on motion/force controls, obstacle detection and collision avoidance.
Second, STREAM will deploy a modular active exoskeleton (MMPE) to reduce the risk of injury by assisting workers in heavy activities. The MMPE is tailored to track workers to reduce the risk of injury at the lumbar area by reducing biomechanical loading for a vast variety of manual handlings. MMPE understands human intention by exploiting human-activity recognition, proprioceptive sensors, and control strategies, and reducing worker’s efforts by applying specific forces, synchronized with the musculoskeletal system. The MMPE design emphasizes ergonomic aspects and PPEs integration to ensure comfort and usability making it suitable for workers. The consortium, assisted by an end-user board, will assess the devices from the perspectives of performance, ethics, and economic rationale to prepare further commercial exploitation