ABB eyes rapid ex­pan­sion as ro­bot­ics grows

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS CANADA - By SHI JING in Shang­hai shi­jing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

ABB Ltd, the Swiss multi­na­tional op­er­at­ing mainly in ro­bot­ics and the power and au­to­ma­tion-tech­nol­ogy sec­tors, said it is plan­ning a rapid ex­pan­sion in China, fol­low­ing strong growth of the coun­try’s ro­bot­ics mar­ket.

Ul­rich Spiesshofer, its chief ex­ec­u­tive, pre­dicts China will be­come the world’s largest ro­bot­ics mar­ket, and said he is hop­ing to po­si­tion his firm to help with that ex­pan­sion, es­pe­cially in the use of ro­bot­ics to clean up the en­vi­ron­ment.

Spiesshofer was re­act­ing to the lat­est world robot statis­tics, re­leased by the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Ro­bot­ics, which showed 57,000 in­dus­trial ro­bots were sold last year, a 56 per­cent in­crease on 2013.

The re­port said the Chi­nese mar­ket will be ac­count­ing for more than a third of all in­dus­trial ro­bots in­stalled world­wide by 2018.

Song Xiao­gang, sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the China Robot Industry Al­liance, said the fig­ures un­der­lined just how im­por­tant ro­bot­ics will be to the fu­ture Chi­nese econ­omy, es­pe­cially as other more tra­di­tional heavy in­dus­tries in the coun­try de­cline.

Spiesshofer said: “If you look at the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties that China has go­ing for­ward, I think the robot and the hu­man be­ing will need to work hand-in-hand.

“With smart au­to­ma­tion, we are el­e­vat­ing the na­ture of work, so that it is less haz­ardous and health-threat­en­ing, of bet­ter qual­ity, and able to achieve stronger pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

With those goals firmly in mind, Spiesshofer said tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist for the com­pany to work on soft­ware de­vel­op­ment here, par­tic­u­larly at its main ma­chine-learn­ing op­er­a­tion in Shang­hai and else­where in China.

With nearly two decades

I think the robot and hu­man be­ing will need to work hand-in-hand.”

of ex­pe­ri­ence in the Chi­nese mar­ket in terms of ro­bot­ics, ABB pi­o­neered ro­botic ap­pli­ca­tions in food and bev­er­age, me­tal pol­ish­ing, pal­letiz­ing, com­puter, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­sumer elec­tron­ics.

At the 17th China In­ter­na­tional In­dus­tryFairun­veiled in Shang­hai on Tues­day, ABB dis­played 10 lead­ing robot au­to­ma­tion so­lu­tions.

The com­pany, he said, would be fo­cused on com­bin­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence with ro­bot­ics, to de­velop what he called “self-learn­ing ma­chines”.

“The soft­ware in­volved is mov­ing from con­ven­tional ma­chine con­trol into self­learn­ing ma­chines, and into ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

“This is the area in which we will be in­vest­ing strongly,” he said.

One of ABB’s soft­ware strengths lies in the ac­cu­rate pro­gram­ming of ro­bots, ex­em­pli­fied by its lat­est YuMi robot, which he said can lit­er­ally “thread a nee­dle”.

Soft­ware de­vel­op­ment will play a key role in ABB of­fer­ing lead­ing-edge ser­vices, he said.

For ex­am­ple, with the ad­vent of cloud-based ser­vices, where in­for­ma­tion is made avail­able to cus­tomers, ABB can play a cen­tral role in China.

“Also, where hard­ware has to be com­bined with lead­ing-edge ma­chine­learn­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, we can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence dur­ing the next phase of China’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

A YuMi robot in­ter­acts with hu­man be­ings.

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