Standardization eyed for mass production of robots

Standardization eyed for mass production of robots
PHOTO: Reuters

Key parts of robots will be standardized so that robots for industrial use can be mass-produced at lower cost.

A number of entities, including the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and robot manufacturers, plan to ensure that bodies, sensors, joints and some other key parts will be replaceable so that the robots can be used for various purposes, such as assembling, painting and transporting work. By mass-producing the robots, they aim to lower prices to about 10 per cent or less compared with the cost of manufacturing current robots.

The Robot Revolution Initiative, a council comprising the ministry, robot manufacturers and universities, will begin discussions of the plan starting on Thursday.

The council will decide outlines of specifications by the end of fiscal 2015, and begin production of prototype robots in fiscal 2016. It will then encourage robot manufacturers, including newcomers, to shift to mass production of the new types of robots.

Currently, most of the robots for industrial use are designed for larger plants and are used in assembly line work, such as welding and painting of cars and installing semiconductor chips. Most of the current robots of these types are expensive, as prices are at least ¥10 million (S$120.1 thousand) each.

The ministry plans to introduce standardized specifications in key parts of the new robots and disclose information about the design specifications. The ministry expects that mass production and diversification of functions will be realised by carrying out these two elements and encouraging developments of functions of arms and other key parts. If manufacturing costs drastically fall, and if small and midsize companies can use the robots more easily, the ministry expects the situation will lead to a greater proliferation of robots.

The council will also make safety standards for using robots at the workplaces of manufacturers and nursing care facilities.

The government has set a goal of enlarging the size of the domestic market for robots and robot-related products to ¥2.4 trillion, about 3.6 times larger than at present, by 2020.

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