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Local enterprises impatient to get foothold in industrial robots market

TAIPEI -- Taiwanese companies are showing an increasing interest in building an industrial cluster to produce robots amid favorable global market conditions, but they still face challenges in integrating the supply chain.

Global demand for industrial robots is on the rise, and many countries, including the United States and China, are pushing for the development of an industry cluster to be well-positioned for future growth.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, one out of five robots sold in 2013 went to Chinese buyers, exceeding Japan for the first time.

Eager to tap into the market, more Taiwanese companies are forging strategic alliances related to robot manufacturing, and have called for other leading electronics firms to participate.

The most recent gambit was an alliance between industrial computer supplier Advantech Co. and precision machinery control specialist Hiwin Technologies Corp.

The two signed an agreement earlier this month to set up a supply chain for the up-and-coming industry.

According to Hiwin Chairman Eric Y.T. Chuo and Advantech Chairman K.C. Liu, more diverse downstream vendors need to get involved in the field to improve Taiwan's overall strength in the area.

To get a competitive edge, however, Taiwanese companies also need to improve the integration of applications and systems to provide robotics industrial automation solutions.

That may prove difficult because there is a lack of know-how in different industries required for such system integration, said Chang Shuo-hung, head of the Introduction Of Mechanical and Systems Research Laboratories under Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute.

But Chang was optimistic that Taiwan still would have a competitive advantage in robotics because it is well-established in such areas as automation and machinery and has strong ongoing research and development efforts in related fields.

Applying robots across different industries will require extensive tests and adjustments, but for now companies like Hiwin and Advantech are limiting their ambition to fields with which they are more familiar, including electronics, pharmaceutical and semiconductor production.

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