A robot developed by THK is shown at the 2017 China International Industry Fair in Shanghai on Wednesday. (GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY)
Collaborative robot sales are set to see a massive jump in China as more industrial manufacturers deploy them to assist their human work force, a new industry report said.
The total size of the market in China will exceed 1.3 billion yuan (6 million) by 2020, according to the Blue Paper of the Cobots Industry for 2017. It forecast that sales of collaborative robots, or cobots, will swell more than four times in four years to 12,000 units in China by 2020, with small and medium-sized enterprises driving the growth.
As many as 2,300 cobots were sold in China last year, up 109.09 percent year-on-year, and the market size rose 83.89 percent to 360 million yuan, the report added.
Since the world's first commercial cobot was produced by Universal Robots in 2008, cobots have gained great recognition from a variety of industries, and more than 50 enterprises worldwide have delved into this sector, said the report, which was jointly published by the Danish manufacturer of smaller flexible industrial collaborative robot Universal Robots and the Shenzhen Gaogong Industry Research Consulting Co Ltd (GGII).
The cobot is designed to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace, contrasting most industrial robots used nowadays that are tasked to operate autonomously or with limited guidance.
Unlike traditional industrial robots, cobots' collaborations between human beings and machines are more suitable for industries with more specific, flexible, and personal requirements.
The lower cost also makes it suitable for small and medium-sized businesses.
Jürgen von Hollen, president of Universal Robots, said that given the very different requirements of small and big businesses, the world's more than 6 million small and medium-sized enterprises that contribute to nearly 70 percent of the world's manufacturing were neglected in the robot world for a long time.
"Actually, no enterprise is too small or too big for robotics. All businesses can benefit from automation," he said.
Cobots may benefit Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises, which need to upgrade production with limited capital.
Last year, a total of 10,500 cobots were sold worldwide, up 95.35 percent from a year ago.
The sector's market size has grown 91.44 percent to 1.96 billion yuan.