The Road to Million Army of Robots: Talented persons and process will be the biggest constraints

We all know that it takes 5 walking days and needs 325 Chinese workers to assemble an iPad, such that it can be on sale. Then, can you imagine that these Chinese workers will be replaced by robotic arms someday?

[Picture: Ren C. Luo, the director of International Center of Excellence in Intelligent Robotics and Automation Research (NTU-iCeiRA), thinks that the road to million army of robots is still a long way to go. ](Photo by劉佳惠)

In recent years, with the transformation of China’s manufacturing trends and the gradually changing situation of labor force, the demand for industrial robots continently emerges in China. Among these, Foxconn, Huawei, ZTE have already used industrial robots to perform simple repetitive tasks. According to the predictions of International Federation of Robotics, which is called IFR for short, China will become the world's largest robot demanding country in 2014.

The situation has led many robot manufacturers, such as Japan's Yaskawa Electric (YASKAWA), Fanuc (FANUC) and the German library card (KUKA), Switzerland's ABB Group, to stage a fierce battle for market share in robots, and gradually introduce their robots to China.And these robot manufacturers all believe that the primary objective of the next generation of robots is to closely interact with humans in cooperation and perform more sophisticated tasks, and then becomes an unmanned factory. And their battlefield is no doubt in China.

However, the Foxconn Technology Group claims the blueprint of million robots will be complete in 3 years, but when it will be in reality?

The target for million army of robots, Ren C. Luo, the director of International Center of Excellence in Intelligent Robotics and Automation Research (NTU-iCeiRA), thinks that it’s pretty difficult to enforce in reality level. He analyzes in two aspects: ” Take an industrial robot as example, it needs at least 10 outstanding engineers to work from application, design, maintenance, system integration and manufacturing to the end of the process. To expand the scale to one million robots, it must need ten million engineers specializing in this field.” He asked:” Are there so many engineers in the world to work for Terry Gou, the president of Foxconn?”

And the other aspect, the preliminarily statistic amount of the world’s high specification industrial robots are only 1.5 million units. But the Foxconn hopes there will be one million robots into production until 2014. Ren C. Luo stressed: ”To expand to million units in 3 years, Gou really overrated, but his direction is right.” Dr. Lai-sheng Chen, MIRL deputy director, also believes that unmanned factory itself is a big goal. We must go through the process of standardization, and component standardization. And it will be possible. So now, there are still their difficulties.

As the diverse and varied as well as customization trend in modern products, it seems that to replace the manpower with the robots is still a long way to go. 

[Reported by 劉佳惠-CTIMES ] on Thursday 3/28/2013