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Robot, automation joint shows reveal recession-proof industry

TAIPEI -- A series of shows featuring robots, industrial automation and logistics opened Wednesday in Taipei with a record number of 550 local and foreign exhibitors, the organizers said that day.

Despite the gloomy global economy, the automation and related industries have done “pretty well,” Eric Chuo, chairman of the Taiwan Automation Intelligence and Robotics Association, said at the event's opening ceremony.

“It is the age of intelligence and automation,” said Chuo, who is also chairman and chief executive officer of Hiwin Technologies Corp. Robots will account for 15 percent of the company's total revenue in 2014, Chuo said on the sidelines of the ceremony, adding that this year's share is about 10 percent.

Multi-axis robots are expected to drive the market next year, he predicted, adding that delta robots and wafer-handling robots are likely to hit the market in that same year. Multi-axis robots refer to those that can move in three or more dimensions/axes, while delta robots consist of three arms connected to universal joints at their base and are usually used in the packaging industry as they can pick up objects very quickly.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who attended the opening, noted that the output of the sector in Taiwan totaled NT$972 billion (US$32.41 billion) in 2012, 43 percent of which were exports. He added that he has confidence that the figure could top NT$1 trillion this year.

The government is working to transform Taiwan's economy from efficiency-driven to innovation-driven, Ma said, adding that the show serves as a great platform to enhance Taiwan's capability and competitiveness in the field.

Among the robots on display was one developed by the Industrial Technology Research Institute for medical use.

The exoskeleton robot, which is Taiwan's first self-developed robot of this kind, can help reduce the wearer's lower-limb loading and generate movement, said Chen Lai-sheng, deputy general director at the institute's Mechanical and Systems Research Laboratories.

In development for over a year, Chen said, the first model weighs about 23 kg but costs only 30 percent of other similar products on the market, which usually have a price tag of US$30,000 to US$50,000.

“We aim to make the product lighter and even cheaper within five years before commercializing it,” Chen told reporters, expressing hope that later models can be as light as 20 kg and as cheap as NT$300,000.

Other robots by other exhibitors also demonstrated features of picking and packaging at a fast pace or laser cutting, while one used a paintbrush to precisely make a portrait out of a picture or image.

The four-day event, which consists of the Taipei International Industrial Automation Exhibition, Robot Show, Logistics Show and Mold and Die Industry Fair, is being organized from Aug. 28-31 at the Nangang Exhibition Hall.

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President Ma Ying-jeou, left, hugs a robot in the Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei, yesterday. Ma attended the opening of a four-day event, which consists of the Taipei ...

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