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Audi is testing a new technology that eases many assembly activities at its Neckarsulm plant: the so-called "chairless chair." The device's carbon-fiber construction allows employees to sit without a chair. At the same time, it improves their posture and reduces the strain on their legs.

March 2, 2015

2 Min Read
Carbon-fiber chairless chair improves ergonomics in Audi's production plants

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Carbon fiber exoskeleton ease assembly process at Audi plant.

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. It 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‑reinforced plastic (CFRP) 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 chairless chair itself weighs just 2.4 kilograms.

According to Dr. Stephan Weiler, the doctor responsible for ergonomic workplace design in Audi's health department: "The chairless chair is a clear demonstration that Audi places priority on attractive and well‑designed workplaces. This construction reduces the stress and strain on our employees' knees and ankles in an ideal manner."

While working, employees wear the chairless chair like a second pair of legs to provide support whenever needed. For many assembly operations, it allows employees to sit in an ergonomically favorable position instead of standing - even with short working intervals. At the same time, this high‑tech supporting structure improves posture and reduces strain on the legs. Chairs and stools, which are currently used in some assembly operations as temporary aids, are no longer necessary. At the same time, 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. We also anticipate new applications for colleagues with reduced physical capabilities," stated Dr. Mathias Keil, Head of Industrial Engineering Methods at AUDI AG.

Starting from late February, Audi employees are gaining experience with three pilot prototypes of the chairless chair on A4 and A6 assembly lines at the Neckarsulm plant - with cockpit pre-assembly for example. Until now, the employees there worked only while standing. They now have significantly less physical stress due to the supportive carbon-fiber device, which allows them to alternate between sitting and standing while working. Audi will also commence a test program at its Ingolstadt plant in May. After that, the company will deploy the chairless chair in series production.

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