This is a huge challenge for China’s robot industry. We are all thinking, what’s wrong with domestic robots? ” Recently, experts from industry, University and research have raised questions on the forum.
According to the data, the four families of industrial robots occupy more than 70% of the market share of China’s robot industry, almost monopolizing the high-end manufacturing fields such as robot manufacturing and welding.
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the number of industrial robots purchased in China reached 138000 in 2017, an increase of 59% over last year, accounting for 36% of the total global demand. Among the 138000 industrial robots, 72% of them are foreign brands, that is 103200. IFR pointed out that this is the first time that foreign robot suppliers have achieved higher growth rate than domestic robot brands, while the market share of Chinese robot suppliers has decreased from 31% in 2016 to 25% in 2017. In industries with high technical and product requirements, this phenomenon is more obvious. Take the automobile industry as an example, foreign brands accounted for nearly 90% of the market in this segment last year; while in the welding application scenarios with high technical requirements, the local robot market share was only less than 15%.
According to statistics, there are more than 1000 enterprises producing robots in China. However, most of these enterprises are in the middle and low end of the industry, and more than 200 of them are robot body manufacturing enterprises, most of which are assembly and OEM, which are at the low end of the industrial chain, with low industrial concentration and small overall scale.
In terms of brand effect, technology accumulation and innovation, China’s industrial robot enterprises have obvious shortcomings.
Where is the way out for domestic industrial robot enterprises?
Three core components that cannot be wound
The control system, servo motor and reducer are the three key components of industrial robot, which have been imported for a long time in China. Because of this, the market of high-end industrial robots with six axes and above used in automobile manufacturing and other fields is mainly occupied by Japanese and European and American enterprises. Domestic six axis industrial robots account for less than 10% of the newly installed industrial robots in China. Some experts said that the technical gap in China’s core components is mainly reflected in the accuracy of processing and assembly, as well as the stability and consistency of products. The instability of industrial robot products will increase the cost of users, thus reducing the user’s willingness to use.
There is no doubt that the biggest weakness of China’s industrial robot enterprises is the lack of core technology of independent intellectual property rights. Take reducer as an example, only 26 patents have been applied for by Chinese applicants, while only 13 are valid patents, and only 2 invention patents are available. In contrast, foreign applicants have applied for 47 patents in China, of which 26 valid patents are all invention patents. In other words, most of the Chinese enterprises applying for patents in the field of reducer do not belong to the core technology.
“China’s industrial robots started in the early 1970s, and it is not too late than the international level.” Yang Zhen, general manager of Shanghai Xinsong Robot Automation Co., Ltd., said that at that time, a number of units, represented by Harbin Institute of technology and Shenyang Institute of automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, had started relevant research, and had made breakthroughs in the research and development of some parts and components. Ultimately, there was no industrial advantage. In the final analysis, the overall weakness of domestic industrial manufacturing enterprises was the root cause. There are both historical reasons and practical shortcomings.
The pain of history
The research and development of AGV system is a high-tech product integrating optical, mechanical and electrical technology. In the mid-1980s, the number of AGVs in Europe reached about 4000. China began to develop AGV independently in 1985. At that time, Shenyang Institute of automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, not only did a lot of basic research, but also completed two rounds of prototype production. However, at that time, the domestic industrial enterprises were still very backward and lacked the knowledge of AGV, so there was almost no relevant demand. From 1991 to 1996 is the most difficult period for the development of AGV in China. During this period, many AGV R & D personnel have changed their professions, and the industry is even more depressed.
In the 1990s, with the development of automobile industry, foreign industrial robots also entered the golden age. In the tide of reform and opening up, a large number of foreign investment is a fatal injury to the development of domestic industrial robots. “The automotive industry is the largest customer base for industrial robots. At that time, the joint venture auto manufacturers were strongly introduced, and they has the final say that the planning and equipment purchase of the production line is funded by foreign investment, which has led to the loss of industrialization opportunities for the domestic industrial automation enterprises, not to mention the continued product development and in-depth research and development. Yang Zhen said.
In addition, the common problems in the industry are also the hidden pain of domestic robot enterprises. Even if the domestic industrial robot enterprises provide solutions for domestic industrial enterprises, industrial enterprises will often require that XX equipment must be used by XX manufacturer.
“In the field of industrial robots, the normal logic should be that the demand side drives the whole machine enterprise, and the whole machine enterprise will lead the parts enterprise. However, the downstream side of the domestic industry is relatively weak, which also leads to the strength of the upstream parts enterprises.”
It is better to retreat and form a net. In 2000, Xinsong Robot Automation Co., Ltd. was established in Shenyang. This robot enterprise hatched by Shenyang Institute of automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been carrying the heavy burden of revitalizing China’s industrial robot industry since its birth.
In 2017, among several leading industrial robot and automation enterprises in China, Xinsong robot received government subsidies of more than 171 million yuan, more than the total of the first four. In addition to policy support, Xinsong also has the halo of “China’s first robot”, favored and supported by capital. In 2015, after the State Council issued the “made in China 2025 plan”, the market value of Xinsong reached nearly 100 billion yuan under the guidance of the policy and the enthusiastic pursuit of the market, even surpassing Yaskawa and KUKA of the four families at one time, ranking among the top three industries in the world, only inferior to abb and fanako.
The four foreign families provide intelligent manufacturing system from parts to ontology to integration. In different industrial chain positioning, they are exporting technology to the outside, and driving the collaborative innovation of upstream and downstream enterprises. Obviously, the 18-year-old shinmatsu is also placed in such high hopes that the “leader” will drive the coordinated development of the entire industry. However, since 2013, China’s industrial robot application has been booming, but Xinsong’s revenue growth has not achieved a breakthrough with this great situation.
The industrial base determines the level of industrial robots
The undeniable reality is that the European and American countries, as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, have a deeper understanding of the industrial scene than China. The industrial robot develops with the development of industrial demand, and the cornerstone of its development lies in the industrial foundation. The most essential core advantage of the four families lies in the system, which includes both hardware and software, and ultimately reflects the understanding and insight of these industrial automation giants with a history of 100 years. All four families have expertise in a certain field of technology. The core field of Yaskawa motor is servo system and motion controller, fanako’s core is CNC system, KUKA’s core is control system and mechanical body, ABB’s core field is control system.
At the same time, domestic robot enterprises are expanding the application scenarios and cooperating with traditional industrial enterprises to customize. Lack of in-depth knowledge of related industries, the understanding of user needs is not thorough, and the most critical is the lack of housekeeping skills, even a single point of breakthrough.
“Industrial robot is a system engineering, which must have systematic thinking and long-term technology accumulation.” ABB’s head of marketing said, “in the past, simple machines could be copied and learned. Nowadays, a complete set of industrial robot system including algorithm, control and hardware is difficult to imitate and surpass. This has very high requirements for the reliability of robot products. International leading enterprises have accumulated experience for decades, and for domestic enterprises, they have to go through such a painful process of exploration. “
At present, the application field of robots in China has involved 39 industries of the national economy, but “there will be at least 10-15 years of robot rapid development in China in the future”. The step from the beginning is heavy and long.