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Robotics industry booms in China

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-10-28 07:23

Robotics industry booms in China

Robot Jia Jia displays at the 2016 World Robot Exhibition in Beijing, Oct 21, 2016. The exhibition is held from Oct 21 to 25 as part of the World Robot Conference. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - "Please do not stand too close or my pretty face will be too big in your photos," Jia Jia told her "fans" at the 2016 World Robot Conference in Beijing.

Jia Jia is a typical oriental beauty with shiny hair, bright skin, a slender figure and a tender voice. More importantly, as China's latest interactive robot, she is considerate and humorous.

Aside from Jia Jia, many other robots have delighted the audience during the five-day robot conference that closed this week, such as humanoid robots that can read emotions or write traditional Chinese calligraphy, and robots that can perform medical operations, wait at tables or work in factories.

"If asked to use one word to describe the development of China's robotics industry, I would choose 'explosion,'" said Zhao Jie, director of the Robotics Institute of Harbin Institute of Technology.

Zhao said thousands of companies were established in dozens of robot industrial parks across China, with the number of employees growing rapidly.

China's robot shipments topped 68,000 sets last year, accounting for 26.7 percent of the global market. Asia has become world's largest supplier of industrial robots, taking up 60 percent of the global market.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), about 75 percent of shipments in the past five years were from China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States and Germany. The average growth of China's robot market over the period stood at 17 percent per year.

"Not only the increasing market size, but I am also optimistic about the manufacturing and development of China's industrial robotics," said Wang Yu, a professor of engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Wang said that after just one year, roughly one-third of industrial robots used in China were manufactured domestically, and the percentage is still climbing.

In addition to industrial robots, service robots have also received extensive attention. China's service robotics are leading the world in firefighting, disaster relief, health care and catering.

According to an IFR report, an estimated 94,800 professional service robots will be installed from 2013 to 2018, with total sales of $17.1 billion. Medical and military robots accounted for 55 percent of the total sales.

Remebot, China's first neurosurgery robot, was a hit at the conference. The designers said that it was accurate to just one millimeter, and with its help, brain surgery that used to take hours could be done within 30 minutes.

Service robotics has become a major field of development in China's robotics industry, said Sun Bolin, honorary chairman of the product information working committee of the China Instrument Society.

Besides areas such as coal mining, power generation and oil exploitation, service robots can also accomplish much in anti-terrorism, criminal investigation and explosives handling, Sun said.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China announced plans at the conference to invest 200 million yuan ($29.5 million) to support the study of the basic theory and key technologies of robots that can work alongside people.

Chinese companies have also been engaged in cross-border mergers and acquisitions in the robot industry. In April, Wanfeng Technology Group acquired US industrial robot manufacturer Paslin, giving Wanfeng access to advanced automated welding technology and clients that Paslin has developed over 80 years.

Many investment and finance institutions are also eyeing the future of China's robotics industry. "We are actively encouraging listed companies to participate in the industry either through capital contribution or technology acquisition," said Li Xiaoxue, deputy director of the China Association for Public Companies.

"China's robotics industry is transitioning from a follower to a frontrunner," Li said.

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