China’s robots bolting forward

The country is striving to become a global hub for robotics innovation by 2025, putting together a group of leading enterprises with international competitiveness.


Visitors interact with robots during the World Robot Conference 2022 in Beijing. ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY

August 24, 2022

BEIJING-From cutting-edge biomimetic and medical robots to agricultural robots that can harvest crops-more than 500 sets of robots have shown up at the World Robot Conference 2022, bringing visitors closer to what life will be like in the future.

The four-day event, showcasing more than 130 robot enterprises and scientific and research institutions, kicked off on Thursday in Beijing with over 30 of the 500 sets of robots making their world debut.

Research and development, manufacturing and the applications of robots have been used as indicators to gauge a country’s scientific and technological innovation and high-end manufacturing level. In China, the robot industry has been developing extremely fast, injecting strong impetus into the country’s economic and social development.

Promoting innovation

In the exhibition hall, a large robot, also making its debut, caught the interest of many of the visitors. The robot is an industrial cleaning device designed to enhance safety, increase productivity, as well as alleviate pressure on sometimes overworked cleaners.

“In some factories, there are many devices already in operation. Manual cleaning can interfere with normal operations of the factory, or even worse, suspend production,” said Zhang Lei, technical director at the Siasun Robot and Automation Co Ltd based in Shenyang, Northeast China’s Liaoning province.

“With the large industrial cleaning robot being used, a vast improvement in both production safety and cleaning efficiency can be seen. The robot can be applied at unmanned intelligent factories and workshops of new energy batteries,” Zhang added.

“The upgrading robot technologies continue to cultivate new products, while each application scenario gives rise to a particular robot market, further stimulating R&D,” said Liang Liang, deputy secretary general of the Chinese Institute of Electronics.

A quadruped walking robot that weighs over 30 kilograms, and is able to jump about 1.2 meters high, also amazed audiences at WRC 2022.

Zhang Weimin, deputy director of the intelligent robot institute at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said that the quadruped walking robot was the outcome of years of continuous efforts in technological innovation.

“The team made key breakthroughs in many aspects these past few years, such as core components, software algorithms and integrated applications. We achieved independent R&D in motors, decelerators and controllers at fewer costs, and the products are of higher quality in comparison to those abroad,” Zhang Weimin said.

In the display area, an exoskeleton robot can be seen. An exhibitor, upon putting on the exoskeleton robot, becomes powerful enough to lift very heavy items with great ease.

“The exoskeleton robot has now been used in fields of healthcare, logistics and fire fighting. Thanks to favorable supportive policies and great market potential, we have increased R&D and made continuous breakthroughs in the field,” said Wang Chunlei, director of the robot center at China Electronics Technology Group Corp.

Industrial development

China issued a guideline for the robotics industry for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) in December. The country will strive to become a global hub for robotics innovation by 2025, putting together a group of leading enterprises with international competitiveness and forming several industrial clusters with an international influence.

“Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area now has over 60 intelligent factories, in which logistics and service robots both play a vital role,” said Liu Li, deputy director of the area’s administration committee, adding that 12 companies from the area participated in WRC 2022.

The area will further improve the capacity and development of the whole industrial chain, producing innovative robots and industrial clusters of intelligent manufacturing, Liu added.

Furthermore, more than 10 robot companies from the Sino-German industrial services zone (Sanlongwan) in Foshan, South China’s Guangdong province, brought new robot products to the conference that can be applied in disinfection and laser-cutting work.

Li Jie, an official of the management committee of Sanlongwan said that there are 56 robot-related upstream and downstream enterprises settled in the zone, indicating an increase in the impact of the robot cluster there.

“Robots are now being developed in a direction where sensitivity, intelligence and safety are paramount. The technological evolution is speeding up, leading to an extended application of robots,” said Chen Ying, secretary-general of the Chinese Institute of Electronics.

The development of the robot industry accelerates the intelligent transformation of manufacturing and many other fields in people’s daily lives with advanced technologies, Chen said.

“Looking ahead, we are heading for an intelligent era in which the potential of robots is limitless. China has a broad market for robots, rich resources for innovation, with a desirable development environment and robot industrial ecosystem. We are willing to cooperate with partners from all over the world to share opportunities and embrace an intelligent future,” said Xin Guobin, China’s vice-minister of industry and information technology.

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