In everyday conversation, osteoarthritis is often mentioned in the same breath as ageing and wear and tear. Less is said about the fact that changes in cartilage are also possible at a much younger age, for instance in athletes with many injuries or people who work in physically demanding jobs. In addition, demographic changes and increasing life expectancy are leading to longer working lives, and the declining birth rate is causing a shortage of skilled workers.
What aids can relieve the strain of physically strenuous activities in everyday life or in the workplace? Discover how five robust, cold-rolled ballscrews from Switzerland promote quality of life and well-being, for instance in our work life. With the support of these ballscrews, people with disabilities can once again grip with renewed strength in their hands and work-related injuries caused by excessive strain can be reduced.
High demands require more proficiencyBallscrews are used extensively as drive components for the conversion of rotary motion (rotation) into linear motion (translation) on account of their high degree of effectiveness of over 0.9η and the associated energy efficiency. Be it a standard design or a customised solution: precision screw drives from Eichenberger are used in a wide range of industries and countless applications. The ideal drive solution is developed in conjunction with the customer in a constructive exchange and with custom-fit services. In many cases, a conventional drive solution can be replaced by innovative technology. In this way, the performance is also raised to a completely new level. The Eichenberger passion for perfect motion makes the thread professional creative. " In the midst of the difficulty lies the opportunity", even with applications where a ball or sliding thread drive would not normally have been considered as the perfect solution.
Osteoarthritis as an occupational illness
Painful hands, stiff fingers: osteoarthritis of the joints is by no means just a problem for older people. Often, middle-aged individuals also suffer from the wear-and-tear disease. Many occupations involve unbalanced physical strain which can lead to health problems in the long run. For example, jobs involving constant kneeling, heavy lifting or carrying and strenuous movements are often associated with the onset of osteoarthritis. Work-related disorders of the neck and upper extremities can affect the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists and fingers, causing tingling, numbness, discomfort or pain. Using vibrating tools can exacerbate these problems. Effects include reduced mobility or grip strength, both of which can cause further hazards at work, such as when a worker can no longer hold or operate a tool safely. Across the EU, musculoskeletal disorders are the number one reason for sick leave and the second most common cause of permanent occupational disability.
Ballscrews drives make it possible for people to do their work in a healthy and sustainable manner
For many people, a job is not just a necessary evil to maintain their livelihood. No, having a job also means participating in life, getting self-affirmation through success, having a regular daily routine and enjoying social contacts. Osteoarthritis often causes severe pain only in individual fingers. Movements such as the pincer grip, clamp hold or clenching the fist no longer function correctly, significantly impacting on a person's everyday life. Generally, it is helpful to relieve the joint as much as possible. What is needed, therefore, is workplaces which are designed to reduce the physical demands on employees and a targeted approach to reducing work-related stresses.
The Ironhand system is the world's first active soft exoskeleton for the hand and is designed to protect workers and improve occupational health. This special glove owes its enormous gripping power to five quiet, slim yet extremely resilient screw drives from Switzerland. Using patented SEM™ technology, the robotic hand mimics the grip movements of the user. The cold-rolled ballscrews from Eichenberger Gewinde AG give it power and high endurance. The system can provide a maximum of 80N grip force within milliseconds. Grip-intensive, repetitive and static tasks can be mastered as if by magic with Ironhand®.
Our hands are one of nature's wonders – Ironhand® keeps them resilient
Our hands are true masterpieces of evolution, only the human hand can bend the second phalanx of the thumb, making precise hand movements and coordination possible. Every grasp or grip is a highly complex process: 27 small bones and 15 joints work together with precision. These are all connected to each other by ligaments, tendons and 33 muscles. In addition, there are nerves and blood vessels. The palm of the hand is the only part protected by a robust tendon plate that allows a powerful grip. Nerve impulses activate the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles - all the individual parts of the hand work together like cogwheels.
Ironhand® works in exactly the same way: the pressure-sensitive sensors in the fingertips of the glove detect when the user grasps an object. A microprocessor calculates the required power. The heart of the Ironhand® mechanism is formed by electrically driven, application-optimised, very delicate 5 x 2 mm (Ø 5 mm, pitch 2 mm) ballscrews. These convert the rotary motion of the small motors into a linear motion - with impressive efficiency of over 0.94η. The servo motors are connected to the fingers of the glove by thin wire filaments. These fine connectors move the fingers and additional force is generated by the slim glove. The higher the pressure on the sensors, the more power the glove delivers. Ironhand® thus recognises how the user grips an object and intuitively and automatically adjusts the gripping movement.
One thing is essential for osteoarthritis: keeping in motion
and this is where the thread screw specialist Eichenberger is the professional
The settings make it possible to react flexibly to different tasks during the course of a working day. For example, carrying out light tasks in the morning and activities that put a lot of strain on the muscles in the afternoon. This also allows different users to work with one system.
Muscles are relieved, the productivity and well-being at the end of a shift are improved.
The right technology partner thinks out of the box
Small installation space often poses a challenge with high loads. Maximum performance in the smallest space is demanded. This is exactly how the Swedish manufacturer, Bioservo Technologies AB, described the requirements for the Ironhand ballscrews, which embody the mechanical drive elements of the Ironhand fingers. High positioning accuracy with the smallest strokes and high dynamics in continuous operation presented the challenges. Safety and reliability were the focus. Maintenance intervals, service life and, of course, costs played a decisive role.
Eichenberger Gewinde AG experiments with exotic materials, thread forms and dimensions that lie outside the norm. Unusual geometries, proprietary interfaces, special materials and hardening processes deliver impressive extras. The company manufactures any tools required for this itself. In this way, the thread professional guarantees a short time-to-market for application-optimised products with maximum precision and cost-effectiveness.
The cold-formed, induction-hardened Ironhand® 5 x 2 mm ballscrews combine speed, precision and minimal space requirements. In addition, the ideal lead ratio of the spindle reinforces efficiency of movement. The "five Swiss heroes", each with three ingenious single-gear returns built into the nut, impress further thanks to their light weight and improve the cost-effectiveness of the overall solution.
Innovative developments both surprise and enable completely new types of drive solutions
In order to keep the customer ahead of the competition, Eichenberger challenges the boundaries of what is technically feasible. "The secret of success is to understand the other person's point of view". Eichenberger embraces this guiding principle and considers forward-thinking intervention to be a vital part of its corporate culture. The thread experts advise and inspire in order to implement ideas for new products for or radically new drives. Making the impossible possible - the associated conversations are Eichenberger's driving force for new developments.
The Inspiration-Check, specially developed by Eichenberger to further develop a customer's product, was also applied to the Ironhand®:
In order to bring you ahead of the competition, we challenge the limits of what is
technically possible. Together, we develop the screw drive solution for your specific
requirements and tailor-make it - in the shortest possible time
What makes the Carry ballscrew drive such a resilient and ideal functional element?
Thread rolling produces very precise geometries with high surface quality. Typical thread manufacturing processes such as milling, turning or whirling involve machine cutting the material, with the disadvantage of interrupting the grain of the steel. However, thread rolling diverts the longitudinal fibres rather than using cutting, and the surface profile hardens at the same time. This "smooth rolled surface" offers little opportunity for dirt to attack. This is crucial for a long service life and also decisive for the quiet rolling of the balls. Cold forming also results in very good roughness values (~ Rz 1.0) on the thread flanks and in the base radius.