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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Applied robotics in China
Article Type: Viewpoint From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 36, Issue 3
Youlun Xiong is based at State Key Laboratory of Digital Manufacturing Equipment and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China
Keywords China, Robotics, Research and development
Significant contributions have been made to Chinese applied robotics research and application in recent decades mainly due to fast-growing Chinese economy, tremendous governmental research investment and effective interaction with international robotics communities. The successes have been emphasised in large-scaled robot assembly in automotive industry, robot aircrafts in space-exploring and cognitive robots in everyday applications.
Yearly incremental rate of market requirement of industrial robots has been kept over 30 per cent in the recent years. In comparison with 90 per cent of industrial robots in the automotive industry several decades ago, today only 50 per cent are in automobile plants, with the other half spread out among metal industry, food and beverage industry, glass industry, pharmaceutical and medical device industry, warehouses, energy plants, hospitals, and many other industries. The economic need and the governmental investment are the main force to drive industrial robots forward in China, for instance, 5,800 industrial robot units were installed in the automotive industry alone in 2006, an increase of 29 per cent on the previous year. It is evident that contributions in Chinese industrial robots play a crucial role in the robotics industry and its application, it is estimated that more than 100,000 robot units would be required by Chinese economy by 2015 with the growing level of its industrial automation, it is expected that the core robot technology and manufacturers will be gradually developed and replaced by Chinese research institutions and enterprises.
Research in applied robotics has been providing solid governmental foundation and industrial investment for booming state-of-the-art in industrial robotics in China. Indeed, the confluence of several advanced technologies is bringing the age of robotics ever nearer – more intelligent, practical, high-tech and cost-effective. The applied robotics research can be represented by space robotics, industrial robotics and cognitive robotics with emphasizes on wealth creation in the China economy and the quality of life. National major schemes and increasing research funding have been launched in China to improve infrastructure and industrial robotics in the past three decades. State key laboratories have been founded for this purpose entitled with “State Key Laboratory of Robotic Technology and System” and “State Key Laboratory of Robotics”; the National Basic Research Program (also known as 973 Program), China’s on-going national keystone basic research program, have supported prioritized research projects on industrial robot such as huge manipulators and shield tunneling machines. Additionally, “National Long-term Scientific and Technological Development Program” has emphasizes the role of industrial robots that it is necessary to develop common basic technologies, such as design method, manufacturing process, intelligent control, system integration, etc. in China.
The robotics research in China has been benefited from frequently effective international research exchange and collaboration. The collaboration has fruited exchanging research success in both theoretical and practical developments and has compensated strengths and weaknesses of world-wide applied robotics research. International programmes have encouraged such collaboration funded by National Science Foundation of China, The Royal Society, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Japan Science Promotion Society, etc.
It is evident that research and development efforts in applied robotics have been strongly contributing to the creation of new opportunities to China economy; their contributions would be identified in world economy growth especially in current economic crisis, sooner or later.