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Taiwan to develop ‘affordable’ industrial robots for factories and warehouses

The Industrial Technology Research Institution of Taiwan says it is working with local manufacturers to develop what it says will be more “affordable” robots for factories and warehouses – in other words, collaborative robots.

This is according to a report in the Taipei Times.

Patrick Yu, acting division director of ITRI’s mechanical and mechatronics systems research labs, is quoted on the website as saying: “Traditional industrial robots are suitable for large-scale production lines. They need a lot of space and cost a lot of money, which small and medium-sized enterprises cannot afford.”

Traditional robots – the large industrial machines which tend to be caged off and require separate computers to run them, called programmable logic controllers – are said to be too big and expensive for a lot of smaller companies, says ITRI. 

“We believe that collaborative robots, which are designed to work in relative safety with people on the same factory floor, can have richer features and be applied to more industries,” says Yu.

Among the companies ITRI is working with is Shihlin Electric and Engineering, which has developed servomotors for smart robot arms.

Also, ITRI is working with AutoTek to develop an all-in-one machine and arm joint.

Currently, the largest Taiwanese robot-maker is Foxconn, the main manufacturing partner of Apple.

Foxconn has approximately 40,000 robots in operation at the moment, according to Robotics and Automation News, and says it plans to build many thousands more, to the point where many of its factories will be run almost entirely by robots.

Amazon is another company which has a large number of robots – more than 100,000 according to some estimates, but they are autonomous mobile platforms to move boxes and shelf units.

However, a combination of the two technologies – an autonomous mobile platform and a robotic arm – is said to be a technology that may be in demand going forward.

Several companies have demonstrated such hybrid robots, among them Kuka, Fetch, Robotnik and several others.