No slowdown in China’s robotics industry
Even though China’s economy is currently experiencing a “slow landing”, the Chinese robotics industry has in contrast seen healthy growth.
Statistics provided by the International Federation of Robotics show that out of the 250,000 industrial robots sold last year, 57,000 of them were sold in China, outnumbering all the other markets in the world.
About 40,000 of these machines sold in China were imported goods, and the figure was up 47 percent year-on-year. The rest of the 17,000 robots sold were made by domestic manufacturers, up 77 percent year-on-year.
While the automotive industry was the first to begin using industrial robots in its production process, the electronics sector is now the most prolific, accounting for the lion’s share of 39 percent last year in China. Metal processing was the second largest with a market share of 20 percent while the automotive sector was ranked third with 15 percent.
In another indication of the robotic industry’s growth, the fourth edition of the China International Robot Show was held in Shanghai on July 11. This is the fourth consecutive year the event has been organized. The number of participating companies had grown from 216 to 300 while the exhibition area was also expanded from 16,000 square meters to 26,000 sq m this time round.
The event was also a magnet for overseas industry leaders as companies such as Comau, Staubli, Yaskawa Electric and Adept Technologies flocked to Shanghai to showcase their latest machines. During the event, California-based Adept Technology Inc unveiled a new robot used for high-speed packaging applications, as well as their latest mobile robot capabilities. According to Terry Hannon, chief business development and strategy officer at Adept, their robots can boost quality and throughput, streamline the transportation of materials and lower operational costs.
There was also a stronger presence at the event this year by domestic manufacturers such as Guangzhou-based GSK CNC Equipment Co Ltd and Shenyang Siasun Robot & Automation Co Ltd.
Shenyang Siasun had completed its smart assembly line for robots last September. The assembly line was the first of its kind in China and can produce 5,000 industrial robots annually.
Qu Daokui, the president of Shenyang Siasun, points to smart manufacturing as the key to creating future growth in the industry, saying that the pillars for the revitalization of the US manufacturing industry and Europe’s ongoing industrialization plans — titled Industry 4.0 — are robots.
“Chinese robot manufacturers should note that key industrial robots with higher technical capabilities used for welding, assembling and automotive manufacturing are still mostly imported from developed markets,” said Qu.
“So even though local companies have been buoyed by the rapid development of the Chinese robotics industry, there is still a huge gap that needs to be bridged,” he added.
While Song Xiaogang, the executive director of China Robot Industry Alliance, shares the same sentiment as Qu, he believes that China’s robotics manufacturers can achieve a breakthrough within the next five years.
“We have contributed to the robotics part for the ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy. For the Chinese robotics industry to develop further, the industrialization ability of the robots must be improved to meet the market demand. The new generation of robots should be rolled out quicker in order to meet the demand of industry upgrading,” said Song.
Some participants of the China International Robot Show held in Shanghai last week believe that China’s robotics manufacturers can achieve a breakthrough within the next five years.