China has unveiled a five-year plan to drive its ambition of becoming a global innovation hub for robotics by 2025. It hopes to get there by focusing on enhancements in key components such as servomotors and control panels. In releasing the five-year roadmap, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Tuesday said operating income from the country's robotics industry was projected to grow an average of 20% between 2021 and 2025. This sector expanded at an average annual growth rate of 15% between 2016 and 2020, with operating income passing 100 billion yuan ($15.69 billion) for the first time last year. An executive guide to the technology and market drivers behind the $135 billion robotics market.
ROBO Global's Jeremie Capron examines how the trade war between the US and China could be good for robotics. You've heard it over and over again: No one wins in a trade war. As the trade war between the US and China continues to escalate, the tariffs and barriers on imported products threaten to slow business activity, create supply chain friction, and dampen international trade – not only between the two countries themselves, but around the globe. No one wins a trade war. But robotics, automation, and AI (or RAAI) is notorious for breaking the rules.
In 2015, after much research, I wrote about China having 194 robot companies and used screen shots of The Robot Report's Global Map to show where they were and a chart to show their makeup. We've just concluded another research project and have added hundreds of new Chinese companies to the database and global map. China installed 90,000 robots in 2016, 1/3 of the world's total and a 30% increase over 2015. Simply said, China has three drivers helping them move toward country-wide adoption of robotics: scale, growth momentum, and money. Startup companies can achieve scale quickly because the domestic market is so large.
Robotics manufacturing in the US will be getting federal support to match business or startup investments via the new Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Institute. Perhaps more importantly, the ARM Institute can act as a conduit to connect and amplify robotics innovations between regions of the USA. As the global robotics ecosystem becomes flooded with interest, and investors, any technological lead the USA currently has is rapidly disappearing. The ARM Institute is now one of 14 Manufacturing USA institutes and the 8th funded by the DOD. Each Manufacturing USA Institute focuses on a technology area critical to future competitiveness – such as additive manufacturing, integrated photonics, or smart sensors.
Industrial robots used to be dumb, somewhat inflexible, and mostly blind - but also fast, precise and very efficient. As the cost of components, sensors and vision systems has been dropping, vision-enabled robots are becoming more prevalent and capable, and the industry is dramatically changing. Those changes can be seen in recent trends in China, investments in and acquisitions of robotic companies, by an analysis of recent startup companies, new and widening application areas for robot use, and technological developments. For the past 50 years industrial robots have picked the low-hanging fruit of manufacturing by handling the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. But today, as consumers want more personalized products, and want them faster, and as costs have dropped and executives have pushed for greater productivity through automation, mobile and vision-enabled robots are emerging and being deployed in many new application areas, particularly for SMEs and in logistics, but also in government, agriculture, surveying, construction and healthcare.