As China Invests in Robotics, iRobot and Other Companies Eye Deals

Jeff Engel for Xconomy:  China emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse over the past few decades, thanks in large part to a deep pool of cheap labor. Now, the country is investing heavily in factory automation, and Boston-area robotics companies and their allies smell opportunity.

Executives from 11 New England robotics firms will travel to several cities in China later this month on a trade mission aimed at sparking business deals and more technology collaboration between the U.S. and China.

The trip is being organized by InTeahouse, along with local nonprofit robotics support group MassRobotics.   Cont'd...

Full Press Release:

Chinese robotics makers feast on government subsidies

Li Liuxi and Chen Na for Caixin Online:  Local governments pumped hundreds of millions of yuan into the robotics industry in the first half of the year, helping to boost profits by as much as 60 percent in those companies rushing to take advantage of the generosity.

With strong support from Beijing, China has embarked on a robot-building frenzy in the last two years in an effort to move beyond traditional manufacturing. But as often happens in industries targeted for development, poorly designed incentive programs often lead to abuse that results in millions of dollars in wasted funds.

Similar waste in China's electric-vehicle and renewable-energy sectors has led to the buildup of huge new capacity that is sometimes unusable or of such low quality that no market exists for the products.

In the case of robotics makers, Caixin found government funding made up a large portion of profits for a dozen manufactures listed in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing in the first six months of this year.  Cont'd...

Technology gap gives foreign firms the edge in China robot wars

BY GERRY SHIH for Reuters:  In a cavernous showroom on the outskirts of this port city in northeastern China, softly whirring lathes and svelte robot arms represent Dalian Machine Tools Group's (DMTG) vision of an automated future for Chinese manufacturing.

On closer inspection, however, most of the machines' control panels bear the logos of Japan's FANUC Corp or the German conglomerate Siemens.

The imported control systems in DMTG's products – used in the assembly of everything from smartphones to cement trucks – are symbolic of the technology gap between Chinese and foreign industrial automation firms, just one of several challenges facing China's ambition to nurture a national robotics industry.

Chinese robotics firms are also grappling with a weakening economy and slumping automotive sector, and industry insiders already predict a market bubble just three years after the central government issued policies to spur robotics development.

"Last year everybody thought they could produce a robot," said Alan Lee, director of Asia sales and business development at Boston-based Rethink Robotics. "When you have market saturation you'll have filtering and M&A. These guys will be the first layer to suffer." 

It is a storyline familiar from other new industries such as solar panels: Beijing's policies and subsides trigger a wave of low-margin, low-cost contenders to rush into the market, where, with no meaningful technology of their own, they struggle to compete on price alone.  Cont'd...

194 Chinese Robot Companies

The robotics industry is booming in China. Companies are deploying thousands of robots in all types of factories, particularly in the auto industry. Chinese companies that manufacture robots and their components are also growing. This article will focus on the 107 makers of those robots.

China's Hunger for Robots Marks Significant Shift

By TIMOTHY AEPPEL and MARK MAGNIER for WSJ.com - Having devoured many of the world’s factory jobs, China is now handing them over to robots.

China already ranks as the world’s largest market for robotic machines. Sales last year grew 54% from a year earlier, and the boom shows every sign of increasing. China is projected to have more installed industrial robots than any other country by next year, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

China’s emergence as an automation hub contradicts many assumptions about robots and the global economy.

Economists often view automation as a way for advanced economies to keep industries that might otherwise move offshore, or even to win them back through reshoring, since the focus is on ways to reduce costly labor. That motivation hasn’t gone away. But increasingly, robots are taking over work in developing countries, reducing the potential job creation associated with building new factories in the frontier markets of Asia, Africa or Latin America.  Cont'd...

SCHUNK China: Gripping New Horizons

Since 2003, SCHUNK has been represented in China with its own subsidiary, and has grown consistently since that time.

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