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  Industrial Robots - an Important Piece of the Industry 4.0 Puzzle

In recent years, the manufacturing industry has faced a great many changes due to the economy, government policies, demographics, consumer demands, and markets. Mass production that used to prevail throughout the world has evolved into small amount production with diversity and customization. Since the German government revealed its Industry 4.0 strategy in 2013, global manufacturing has entered a new era of digitalization and smart manufacturing. Countries have proposed a wide variety of business transformations, such as the US Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), the Made in China 2025, and Taiwan’s 5+2 industrial innovation program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak this year, a large number of enterprises took action to adjust production policies and relocate factories through the technologies of automation, standardization, intellectualization, and digitization for decentralized manufacturing and logistics, and import / export cost reduction.

In line with these business transformations, “flexibility of manufacturing” has become a primary goal of manufacturers, which is increasing the demand for industrial robots.

Peter Peng, Director of Delta’s Robotics Automation Dept., said, “We have seen the robotics market continue to grow with production values and shipments increasing since 2012. The market expansion reached a peak in 2017, when the shipment growth rate rose 40%. Although many external factors have had impacts on the market and resulted in a period of slow growth from 2018 to 2019, people are still optimistic about the prospects of the robotics market and anticipate a next wave of growth after 2020. In general, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of the robotics market is estimated to be about 9.1% from 2017 to 2023. If the smart manufacturing transformation keeps going, robots will be applied to more industries, and there will definitely be more business opportunities for robots in the future with price reductions.”

1. The current situation of Taiwan’s industrial robots

In response to market demands, Taiwan still implements small amount production with diversity, and has put special emphasis on flexible functions and a high ROI of robotics to catch up with fast changing industries. Taiwan plays a crucial role in the machine tool industry and has mostly integrated machine tools with Japanese robot arms. However, these robot arms do not satisfy our manufacturers. With the development of domestic six-axis and collaborative robots, there will be a positive trend with an increase in using domestic robots. To improve the price-performance ratio and system efficiency of robots and to increase added value, domestic robot manufacturers need to simplify robot operations and integrate robots with various applications.

As far as supply chains are concerned, Taiwan produces key robot components for global industrial robot manufacturers, including screws, motors, gear reducers and more, and manages robotics supplies and costs well. In addition, as local producers learn of market trends from customers, Taiwan offers excellent conditions and opportunities for developing industrial robots. Manufacturers in Taiwan are developing products and solutions with cloud connection for flexible and quick smart manufacturing changeovers to fulfill small amount production with diversity.

2. Delta’s current industrial robots applications

As the manufacturing industry changes, market demands for automation have turned from dedicated equipment to highly flexible smart equipment, and robots are regarded as an important piece of the Industry 4.0 puzzle. Delta has devoted itself to automated production for over 20 years, and is now entering its fifth year in the robotics market since the debut of its first SCARA robot in 2015.

Peter Peng pointed out, “Delta’s competitive advantage is that we have the electronics processing technology and years of experience in developing automated key components for integration with robotic solutions. In addition, Delta can learn from actual tests and production with its own electronic components and automated production lines to improve robotic solutions. We always test and verify every product and improve weaknesses per the user experience before launching on the market. We have many successful cases regarding electronic applications, such as transferring, gluing, screw locking and more, to apply to diverse industries. In terms of market demand, both the automobile industry and the electronics industry require robotic automation. The experience we have accumulated is a great help for our business expansion into these industries.”

More and more traditional industries are starting to adopt robots in production, including packaging, food, and pharmaceuticals. Delta has developed Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arms (SCARAs) and six-axis articulated robots for various industries and has designed dedicated functions including conveyor tracking and inspection on the fly for easy operation.

Delta sees that users are unwilling to use robots due to difficult programming languages and usage. Through every interaction with customers and learning from their feedback, Delta continues to improve and innovate its products. Delta has recently launched robot simulation software – DRASimuCAD – integrating CAD, CAM and robot simulation programs for smart manufacturing. DRASimuCAD allows users to simulate workpieces, the working environment, or equipment with the 3D modeling function, as well as import dozens of CAD files, and configure layouts by dragging and dropping icons built into the software library. The simulation consists of CAM processing path auto-generation, physical robot operation, a programming interface, processing time estimation, possible collision detection and prevention, and parameter optimization. The DRASimuCAD achieves smart design with the integration of virtual and real conditions.

With the simulation program, users can rapidly perform simulation programming of a workstation, robotic tutorials and auto-programming before system setup. There is no need to wait until the physical settings are complete. In the footwear industry, for example, this simulation program can help footwear manufacturers simulate the processes of gluing, polishing, path point teaching and multi-point teaching before production, which increases their inclination to adopt robots on production lines.

Delta integrates robots with motion control for automated production with high utilization rates and product yields for industries, including electronics, home appliances, packaging, food and beverages, automobile components and more. Delta’s experience in diverse applications and industries contributes to its development of robotic solutions and products.

3. Prospects for the robotics industry

Robots are popular and prevail in manufacturing today due to the high elasticity for flexible production and applications. In terms of the market data, there are increasing demands for robots, especially for lightweight robots. More and more diverse functions and simpler operation settings are being developed for robots and decreased prices lower the threshold for using robots, which increases customers’ willingness to invest. In addition to automobile and electronics applications, robots are also being used for food, pharmaceuticals, packaging and other industries in the wake of the digitalization of manufacturing.

Making robots easier to use or to duplicate is the goal that robot suppliers must strive toward. For applications, Delta adopts the concept of App Robot to provide a series of solutions for quick use in production. Delta’s robotic screwing solution, for instance, integrates a robot controller, robot arm and screwing machine with a user-friendly operation interface for fast communication.

Not only in-depth applications but also business expansion into more industries is crucial for robot manufacturers. Each industry requires specific manufacturing technologies, know-how, and different operation speeds and accuracy. Today the trend is to fulfill all sorts of production processes. Delta has made extra efforts for the glass printing and packaging industries and has developed a complete software solution with Delta’s machine vision system to package lid-and-tray boxes. Customers can rapidly apply the solution and machine vision system to production lines and easily promote robots among relevant industries. Moreover, the demand for easy-to-use or collaborative robots keeps increasing. Collaborative robots facilitate users with intuitive drag-and-drop nodes, provide safer operations, and have the potential for increasing business opportunities with brighter prospects.

4. Challenges and opportunities for Taiwan’s robots

Currently industrial robots primarily achieve flexible, high capacity production, and replace labor for industrial applications that require high-repetition and high-precision processes such as electronics assembly. These manufacturers are usually large enough to implement offshore manufacturing. In contrast, domestic robot manufacturers target domestic manufacturers in certain industries or Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). How to achieve high production efficiency with limited costs is what they care most about. Manufacturers and suppliers focus on the return on investment (ROI) of robot arms and would rather develop robots on their own to decrease costs.

There are few domestic economic benefits for robot manufacturers in Taiwan. They require partners in relevant industries to provide solutions and set up successful models that benefit SMEs and that they hope to create unique advantages to apply globally in the future.

Delta has observed that domestic robot manufacturers can enhance their competitiveness by achieving the following points:

- Improving ROI
Industry changes, consumption patterns, and production types lead to future uncertainties that may directly or indirectly affect a company’s assessment of whether or not to use robots for flexible production. This is the first challenge creating clear and attractive benefits for using a large number of robots.

- Quick setup for applications
Robots have been developed with more flexible structures, but offering easy installation and settings are crucial factors in introducing robots to production lines. Delta suggests robot manufacturers design simple parameter settings and functions for industries that they are familiar with to assist users in easy operation and fast setup.

- High integration capability
For quick application, robots must be able to rapidly connect to equipment and integrate with peripherals, and offer user-friendly design for programming settings, easy hardware operation, and tutorials.

- Soft power development for new breakthroughs
Taiwan has long been devoted to industrial automation, but it still needs to put much effort into industrial robot development. In the face of huge market challenges, robot manufacturers must enhance their soft power by integrating Information Technology, cloud platforms, and Industrial 4.0 for greater industrial automated system connection and higher efficiency.

Peter Peng, Director of Delta Robotics Automation Dept., is optimistic about the development of the robot market in Taiwan.
Peter Peng, Director of Delta Robotics Automation Dept., is optimistic about the development of the robot market in Taiwan.
With the development of smart manufacturing, “flexibility in processes” is the primary goal for robot manufacturers to achieve and to increase the demand for industrial robots.
With the development of smart manufacturing, “flexibility in processes” is the primary goal for robot manufacturers to achieve and to increase the demand for industrial robots.
Taiwan has been playing an important role in the global machine tools industry. It has continuously improved the integration of machine tools and robot arms, and is now putting the emphasis on domestic brands of robot arms.
Taiwan has been playing an important role in the global machine tools industry. It has continuously improved the integration of machine tools and robot arms, and is now putting the emphasis on domestic brands of robot arms.
News Source: IABG MKT Dept.
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