Core tech

Long-term in­put in do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of com­po­nents and AI nec­es­sary, ex­perts say

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By MASI and OUYANG SHIJIA Zhu Fangjie contributed to this story Con­tact the writ­ers through masi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Long-term in­put in do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is nec­es­sary.

Long-term com­mit­ments to core tech­nolo­gies and closer ties with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence firms are needed to make robots more in­tel­li­gent and flex­i­ble, as China ramps up re­sources to up­grade its la­bor­in­ten­sive man­u­fac­tur­ing with tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion, ex­perts said on Fri­day.

Zhao Jie, a me­chanic pro­fes­sor at Harbin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, a top engi­neer­ing univer­sity in China, said China’s ro­bot in­dus­try is grow­ing rapidly, but it is still bot­tle­necked by do­mes­tic ro­bot maker’s lack of com­pe­tence to mass-pro­duce re­li­able key ro­bot parts.such as speed re­duc­ers.

“Most of com­po­nents are still im­ported from for­eign coun­tries, which in­creases the cost of robots,” Zhao said at a ro­bot con­fer­ence in Bei­jing.

Also, lack of well-known brands is lim­it­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the do­mes­tic ro­bot sec­tor, he added.

Chin­abecamethe­world'sbiggest­mar­ket for in­dus­trial robots in 2013, sur­pass­ing Ja­pan, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Ro­bot­ics. But for every 10,000 em­ploy­ees, there are still only 36 robots in China, com­pared with 478 in South Korea, 292 in Ger­many and 164 in theUnited States in 2014.

Amid surg­ing la­bor costs, the ro­bot­ics fed­er­a­tion es­ti­mates that China will likely to usher in more than one-third of the in­dus­trial robots in­stalled world­wide in 2018, more than dou­blin­gover­thenext twoyears from 262, 900 cur­rently to 614,200.

Michael Wang, pro­fes­sor of me­chan­i­cal and aerospace engi­neer­ing at Hong Kong Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy, said that with ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, robots would be­come in­creas­ingly af­ford­able and what re­ally mat­tered was how to ex­pand var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tion sce­nar­ios.

“Cur­rently, most ro­botic arms are de­ployed in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, whose prod­ucts are highly stan­dard­ized,” Wang said.

“But when it comes to the con­sumer elec­tron­ics sec­tor, robots are still not smart enough to as­sem­ble smart­phones, which re­quire the flex­i­bil­ity of hu­man hands. That is the di­rec­tion ro­bot mak­ers should move for­ward.”

China ear­lier this year un­veiled plans to triple its an­nual out­put of in­dus­trial robots to 100,000 in five years, which prompted in­vestors to pour money into the boom­ing in­dus­try.

Heavy­weights such as Si­a­sun Ro­bot & Au­toma­tion Co — China’s largest ro­bot maker by mar­ket value — and star­tups are all join­ing in.

Li Boji, deputy chief en­gi­neer atGSKCNCEquip­men­tCoLtd, a ma­jor ro­bot maker in China, said the ro­bot in­dus­try was more com­pli­cated than the smart­phone sec­tor, with far more com­po­nents and tech­nolo­gies in­volved. “Any break­through de­mands long-term ef­forts. Short­sighted strate­gies will lead to fail­ure,” Li said.

Zhao, from Harbin In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, agreed. “The ro­bot in­dus­try is in­vest­mentin­ten­sive, highly risky and of slow-re­turn,” he said.

“In­vestors need to re­main calm and have a clear mind. More ef­forts are needed to fo­cus on sci­en­tific re­search.”

WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY

A ro­bot draws a por­trait at an in­dus­try expo held in Bei­jing on Fri­day.

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