Change starts from the edge, and domestic collaborative robots are the first to tear open a gap from some aspects of the automobile manufacturing industry.

In 2021, the share of domestic collaborative robots in China will exceed 90%.

  In the automobile manufacturing industry, "domestic collaborative robots are replacing international brands, which is the result of competition." Chang Li, vice president of Shanghai Jieka Robot Technology Co., Ltd., told Yicai.com.

  The automobile manufacturing industry is the main application market for industrial robots, but the share of domestic robots in this field is very low, currently less than 10%.

The reason behind this is that, compared with industries such as home appliances, the automobile manufacturing industry has higher requirements on the technology and stability of robots, and foreign companies have developed earlier and gained the upper hand.

  Collaborative robots are a subcategory of robots.

Different from traditional industrial robots with high power, high cost, and physical fences, collaborative robots are designed to directly interact with people at close range in the collaborative area, which has the advantages of low deployment cost and easy to use.

Change starts from the edge, and domestic collaborative robots are the first to tear open a gap from some aspects of the automobile manufacturing industry.

edge breakthrough

  Li Jin is the relevant person in charge of a traditional industrial robot manufacturer, mainly serving automotive customers.

  Customers in the automotive industry seek cooperation with system integration suppliers through bidding, which will lead to: on the one hand, customers have high standards for industrial robots and can specify robot brands, most of which are foreign robot brands; This method makes system integrators more "introverted", and they all hope to come up with cost-effective solutions, so most of them use international robot products.

  "For the selection of industrial robots for production line applications, some cases are designated by customers for procurement, and some cases are that the company purchases itself according to customer production requirements." Li Jin told Yicai reporter that in terms of procurement, the company adopts the "order by production" model. Determine the required raw materials, including standard equipment such as stud welders, industrial robot bodies, welding torches, and gluing equipment.

  The automotive industry was the first to apply automation and deploy robots.

In the Chinese market, local robots have not yet been able to achieve a positive breakthrough in vehicle companies.

The "2021 White Paper on the Development of China's Industrial Robot Industry" shows that among the proportion of domestic robots in different industries, the domestic share of industrial robots used in the automobile manufacturing industry is the lowest, less than 10%.

  At present, domestic collaborative robots can be used in some aspects of automobile production, such as final assembly.

  A car generally needs to go through 5 workshops: stamping, welding, spraying, final assembly, and powertrain.

The first three workshops use a large amount of traditional industrial robots; the latter two workshops can use collaborative robots.

  "Because the first three workshops (stamping, welding, spraying) are production lines, they have high requirements for the technology of the robot itself and the manufacturing process of the complete vehicle, and have basically been automated." Chang Li said that the above three workshops The share of domestic industrial robots in the workshop is relatively low, and more of them are the first array of international brands (such as Fanuc, ABB, Yaskawa, and KUKA).

  The latter two workshops (final assembly, powertrain) have more flexible procedures, and introduce collaborative robots to work side by side with workers to improve the overall production efficiency of the factory.

  The development of the auto parts industry closely follows the auto industry. Because of the different models of auto parts, the material, shape, size and weight of the products are different.

Most manufacturers choose to use collaborative robots to improve quality and production flexibility to meet user needs.

Collaborative robots have been widely used in dipping, loading and unloading, and assembly of auto parts.

  Domestic collaborative robots can already enter the manufacturing process of multinational factories.

Toyota's only current supplier of collaborative robots is Shanghai-based Jieka Robot.

  "In the era of Industry 4.0, Toyota needs to establish a sales-driven system, that is, to obtain more business data, customize business operations, and then promote back-end production. Toyota has also made changes to automobile production scenarios, such as dispatching, production, and logistics. , sales network and other links." Chang Li said that based on the transformation of production mode, Toyota believes that collaborative robots can better adapt to flexible and intelligent production scenarios.

  At present, the card-saving robots are mainly used in Toyota's factories in China, Japan and other places, running in powertrain, final assembly, auto parts manufacturing and other workshops.

  The "2022 China Collaborative Robot Technology Development Report" shows that in 2021, the share of domestic collaborative robots in China will exceed 90%.

In 2021, the sales of domestic collaborative robots will reach 15,300 units, a year-on-year increase of 45.7%, and the sales will exceed 1.5 billion yuan.

  Chang Li said that from the perspective of supply, in the field of collaborative robots, there are far more Chinese manufacturers than foreign manufacturers, mainly because the soil for the development of the industry is in China; from the perspective of application, major customers represented by Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen annually In the early stage of exploration, they also used international brands. However, with the development of the industry, the understanding and demand for products continued to deepen, the development of the company, the improvement of efficiency, and the quality of products and services. In the face of rising costs, more and more customers are switching from the original international brands (such as Universal Robots) to domestic brands.

Opportunities brought by new energy vehicles

  The great development of new energy vehicles has brought some changes to the application of robots.

  For example, some car companies represented by Tesla have begun to use some large casting machines to make integrated car bodies.

This process results in fewer welding points on the car body and a corresponding reduction in the use of industrial robots for welding.

  "The production process is generally similar, the difference lies in the transformation of some process points, such as the lightweight of the new energy vehicle body, from spot welding to laser welding. With the change of the process, the number of robots in the welding process will be reduced, which It is inevitable." Chang Li said.

  The current main goal of Li Jin's company is to promote breakthrough projects in the field of new energy.

  "Due to the continuous improvement of end users' demand standards for new energy vehicles, the manufacturing process of new energy vehicles has improved the manufacturing process standards due to the requirements of body materials, safety, stability, energy saving, etc., which has a great impact on the quality of industrial robots, namely: accuracy , speed, stiffness, etc. put forward higher requirements, forcing domestic robots to continuously improve product quality." Li Jin said that new energy is a recent hot emerging industry, with strong demand for automation and obvious personalization, and it is necessary to continue to develop new robot application technology and manufacturing. craft.

  The key component of new energy vehicles is the battery, and the automated upgrading process of the latter will also bring opportunities for domestic robots.

  According to the statistics of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, in 2021, the national hydrogen fuel cell vehicle production and sales data will be 1,777 and 1,586, respectively, an increase of 48.2% and 34.7% year-on-year.

From 2015 to 2021, the cumulative production and sales of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles nationwide are 9,237 and 8,938, respectively.

  Chen Fang, a person in the fuel cell industry, told the First Financial Reporter that the country attaches great importance to the improvement of the level of autonomy of key technologies in the hydrogen energy industry. At present, most of these key technologies have been localized, but in order to continuously improve product performance indicators such as stability and durability It requires a lot of testing, and in the production process, it also needs to be adjusted according to the actual situation.

Although many fuel cell companies have planned a large scale of production capacity and invested in production lines, from the perspective of cost and actual demand, the degree of automation in some links is currently not high.

  Chen Fang said that fuel cell vehicles are currently mainly in the field of commercial vehicles. Under the background of the promotion of relevant subsidy policies and the implementation of the national dual-carbon strategy, it is only a matter of time before the industry adopts robotic automated production lines on a large scale.

  New fields open up new market possibilities for domestic robots, especially collaborative robots.

In Chang Li's view, collaborative robots do not have the technical bottleneck of traditional industrial robots.

  "The bottleneck that affects China's robot industry is mainly in traditional industrial robots; for collaborative robots, with a history of only about 10 years, Chinese factories have a large number of application scenarios, and compared with foreign companies, there is no bottleneck that needs to be broken through." Chang Li think.

According to her introduction, the core components of the Jieka robot, such as the reducer, use the products of the domestic enterprise Green Harmony (688017.SH).

Who to learn from

  As far as traditional industrial robots are concerned, "key components account for 70% of the production cost of the industrial robot body, and the core components of domestic robot brands rely on imports. demand." Li Jin said that the core components of his company's robot body are still imported from abroad.

  Chang Li believes that "it needs to be hard to strike iron". Domestic robot companies must first polish their products, and at the same time, they must pay attention to the joint consultation and construction of the robot industry chain and ecology.

  "Collaborative robots need to have a variety of products and application technologies such as force sensing technology, visual recognition, control system, and robot end effector." Chang Li analyzed: "More importantly, it is necessary to combine technology with more ecology, including terminal The customer's process department and automation department work together to break through and create scenarios."

  Last year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other 15 departments jointly issued the "14th Five-Year Plan" Robot Industry Development Plan. The "Plan" mentioned that the robot industry should "make up for the shortcomings of industrial development. Promote the joint research of industry, academia and research, and make up for the special purpose." Materials, core components, processing technology and other shortcomings, improve the function, performance and reliability of key robot components; develop robot control software, core algorithms, etc., to improve the function and intelligence of the robot control system."

  In order to complete the upgrade of domestic industrial robots, Li Jin believes that it is necessary to continue to attack core technologies in the fields of reducers, controllers and servo systems, improve the self-made rate of core components of industrial robots; improve the talent guarantee system, and support universities and scientific research. The institute cultivates high-end talents, thereby promoting robot applications and independent research and development of robots; deepens international exchanges, encourages foreign companies to set up research and development institutions in China, and promotes the "going out" of robot products and solutions.

  Germany and Japan are traditional manufacturing powerhouses, and the robotics industries of both countries are worthy of reference for domestic enterprises.

  "Japan is a big country of robots, with relatively developed automobile, electronics, and automation industries. It is a typical market in Asia and even around the world. Germany is the benchmark for Industry 4.0, and automation technology and industrial giants come from here, such as Schneider and Siemens. We hope It is possible to go to the most developed places in the industry, use local personnel, take root, and serve local industries and customers." Chang Li said that the technical personnel of Japanese and German companies in Jieka accounted for about 60%.

  Robots are a technology-intensive industry, and Jieka has established R&D centers in Japan, Tianjin, and Shanghai, with different focuses.

The company's R&D center in Japan focuses on technologies, such as the R&D and application of perception technology on the robot body; the R&D center in Tianjin gathers around customers and focuses on the R&D of processes and applications; the R&D center in Shanghai focuses on the implementation of product R&D.

  In recent years, collaborative robots have developed rapidly, and there are already signs of low-end repetitive construction in the industry.

  "Any promising industry will attract a lot of capital and players, and there will definitely be the problem of repetitive construction. To test the quality of a company's products, you can directly look at its production and sales. There are about 200 domestic manufacturers of collaborative robots, and the output is There are very few manufacturers with more than 1,000 units, maybe less than 10." Chang Li said that the survival of the fittest for collaborative robots has already begun.

  (At the request of the interviewee, Li Jin and Chen Fang are pseudonyms)

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