Mon, Oct 29, 2018 - Page 16 News List

ABB plans to use robots to make robots

CHINESE MARKET:The Swiss group said it would build a plant near its robotics campus in Shanghai to produce units for the local market and for export

Reuters, ZURICH, Switzerland

ABB Ltd chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer speaks at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on March 29 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Photo: Reuters

Robots are to make robots at a new ABB Ltd factory in China, which the Swiss engineering group on Saturday said it plans to build in Shanghai for US$150 million as it defends its place as the country’s largest maker of industrial robots.

The factory, located near ABB’s China robotics campus, is due to be operating by the end of 2020 and is to produce robots for China, as well as for export elsewhere in Asia.

China is ABB’s No. 2 market after the US.

“Shanghai has become a vital center for advanced technology leadership — for ABB and the world,” ABB chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement.

With the expansion, ABB is banking on Chinese robots sales defying concerns over trade tensions with the US, which some fear could dent demand for electronics, auto parts and other items that require automated manufacturing and robots.

China is expanding its robotic workforce as wages for human workers rise and the country seeks to compete with lower-cost countries using greater automation.

Last year, one of every three robots sold in the world went to China, which purchased nearly 138,000 units, ABB said.

The company’ said its new 6,968m2 factory would use software meant to allow people and robots to work safely in close proximity.

The company’s YuMi robots — designed to work side-by-side with people — would also be deployed on many of the small-parts assembly tasks needed to manufacture an ABB robot, it said.

Rival Kuka AG, taken over in 2016 by China’s Midea Group Co (美的集團), has also been expanding in the country, including by building a robot park in Shunde in Guangdong Province.

ABB’s industrial robots are used to build automobiles and assemble electronic devices, among other things, and it would build robots for numerous industries at the Shanghai factory, a spokesman said.

It did not give a new employee count for the factory, but said it would boost robotics employment, which now sits at more than 2,000 ABB workers in China.

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