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Robots empower intelligent transformation of China's manufacturing industry


Desktop industrial robots are pictured at the World Robot Conference 2023 in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 16, 2023. (Xinhua/Ren Chao)

HOHHOT, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- At a plant in Baotou, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, industrial robots are producing industrial robots, supervised by Xiao Pan and three other staff.

"My job is to install 'brain' and 'eyes' for industrial robots, enabling them to see, analyze information, and accomplish more complicated work," said Xiao, a researcher at the School of Electromechanical Engineering under the Guangdong University of Technology.

At the plant of Inner Mongolia BKJD Robot Co., Ltd., robot is polishing electrolytic aluminum carbon blocks several meters away. The robot undergoing performance tests can keep working around the clock in heavily polluted and other harsh environments for maximum efficiency.

Amid China's push for innovation-driven development, the robotics sector has become one of the country's strategic emerging industries and has made remarkable achievements. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed the output of China's industrial robots hit 443,000 units in 2022, surging 21 percent year on year.

Xiao, who provides technological support for the company and several others, said industrial robots have unique advantages in modular, repetitive, and precise production, and can be applied in low-temperature, high-temperature, toxic, and other dangerous environments.

Widely adopted in sectors such as electronics, metal smelting and mining, the industrial robots can improve production safety and efficiency, lower labor costs, and push manufacturing toward a higher level of intelligentization, she said.

"The robot industry represents advanced manufacturing and is leading human society to an intelligent era, boosting world economic development and improving the well-being of mankind," said Xin Guobin, vice minister of industry and information technology.

China has become the world's largest industrial robot market, with its annual installations of industrial robots accounting for more than half of the world's total in 2022, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Under the "Robot+" application action plan, released early this year by the MIIT and 16 other government departments, the country vowed to increase the use of robots in manufacturing, agriculture, logistics, energy, healthcare, education, and elderly services, among other areas.

The country's robot density, the number of robots per 10,000 employees, reached 392 for the manufacturing sector last year, according to the MIIT.

The sector, which represents a country's strength in technological innovation and high-end manufacturing, has been driving the intelligent transformation and upgrading of China's manufacturing companies, and helps raise total factor productivity, analysts said.

Over the past 10 years, the country's high-tech manufacturing industry has reported fast expansion, with investment into the sector registering an annual increase of 7.4 percent. The sector's value-added industrial output accounted for 15.5 percent of those at the country's major industrial firms last year, up from 9.4 percent in 2012, according to National Development and Reform Commission data.

At a double-track automatic production line in Baotou Jiangxin Micro Motor Technology Co., Ltd., two workers put several parts on the conveyor belt and checked the operation of industrial robots, which are manufacturing voice coil motors (VCMs), key components of smartphone cameras.

The automatic production line, which the company developed by itself in 2021, enables it to raise its production capacity and efficiency and lower production costs, said Guo Yanchun, the company's chairman.

Although the automatic production line cost a total of more than 20 million yuan (about 2.79 million U.S. dollars), Guo said the cost can be digested after mass production.

"With the help of industrial robots, we managed to raise our product qualification rate to 99.6-99.7 percent from the previous 96.8-97 percent," Guo said.

He said the company is building a second automatic production line, which will use industrial robots to replace workers who pick up parts and put them on the conveyor belt.

"I've visited a lot of manufacturing firms around the country and found their automation levels have remained low. There is still great potential for the development of the industrial robot market," Xiao Pan said.

According to the Chinese Institute of Electronics, the country's industrial robot market is expected to reach 8.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2022 and will be valued at more than 11 billion dollars by the end of 2024.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)