Latest robots cooperate with humans

Updated: 2014-11-05 07:57

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai(China Daily)

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They are smart enough to solve puzzles in seconds, strong enough to lift metric tons of metal with ease, and they never complain about having to do the same thing repeatedly for 30,000 hours.

Robots have been playing an increasing role in factories for years, but now they are not just taking over jobs, they are cooperating with their human colleagues.

Several leaders in robotics research and development launched their latest technologies and products at the China International Industry Fair in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Human-robot collaboration and interaction feature in a number of the newly developed models on display.

German manufacturer KUKA brought the LBR "intelligent industrial work assistant" lightweight robotic arm to China for the first time. The arm can be used in proximity to people, as its built-in sensors detect their presence and enable the arm to avoid hitting them, improving both efficiency and safety.

Swiss firm ABB's Yumi, a dual-arm assembly robot, also made its Chinese debut at the fair. The arms are equipped with sensors that detect workers' movements and allow the robot to interact with them.

China's advanced industrial processes require high levels of precision and durability, and market experts say human-robot interaction is a natural trend at the top end of manufacturing.

"While robots deliver consistent performance and endure harsh conditions, human workers have advantages in handling very complex tasks," said Simon Chang, senior vice-president and general manager of the industrial automation division of Taiwan's Delta Electronics. "Interaction between humans and robots will greatly improve efficiency and deliver greener, smarter manufacturing processes."

A report by the International Federation of Robotics says demand for industrial robots could grow by 25 percent annually in China as the country's industrial giants upgrade their plants and manpower costs rise. Sales of robots are expected to reach 100,000 units by 2017.

Su Bo, vice-minister of industry and information technology, said on Monday that a five-year plan to support the development of robots will be launched in a bid to boost the sector and meet demand.

The use of advanced robots could contribute up to $4.5 trillion to the global economy by 2025 as they are deployed in manufacturing, the medical sector and service industries, according to a report by consultancy firm McKinsey.

(China Daily 11/05/2014 page3)