ABB will build $150m robot factory in China with a digital twin

ABB will build $150m robot factory in China with a digital twin

Business news |
By eeNews Europe

The Kangqiao plant, alongside ABB’s research campus in the region, will also work on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and will begin operating by the end of 2020. It will also be developed alongside a digital twin, with a digital model of the plant using ABB’s ‘Ability Connected Services’ to monitor the health and performance of ABB robots in the factory to ensure early identification of potential anomalies.

China is a key market for robotics.  In 2017, one of every three robots sold in the world went to China, which purchased nearly 138,000 units. The deal with the Shanghai municipal government also includes a comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement to support industry, energy, transport and infrastructure in the region.  ABB employs approximately 5,000 people in Shanghai, and the company’s robotics businesses in China employ more than 2,000 engineers, technology experts and operational leaders in 20 locations across the country. ABB has invested more than US$2.4 billion in China since 1992, with over 18,000 employees in total.

“China’s commitment to transform its manufacturing is a torchlight for the rest of the world,” said Ulrich Spiesshofer., CE of ABB. “Its strategic embrace of the latest technologies for artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and cloud-based computing present a playbook for every country that wishes to have a globally competitive manufacturing base. Shanghai has become a vital center for advanced technology leadership – for ABB and the world. We look forward to working with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong, other community leaders and our customers as we launch this major expansion of ABB’s substantial presence in China, building on our journey to become China’s leading Robotics manufacturer that started in Shanghai over two decades ago.”

The new Shanghai factory will feature a number of machine learning technologies alongside an R&D centre will help accelerate innovations in artificial intelligence, with a more types of robots and more variants of each type, allowing greater and faster customisation.

The factory will have a flexible floorplan based on interlinked islands of automation rather than fixed assembly lines. ABB logistics automation solutions will be used throughout the plant, including automatic guided vehicles that can autonomously follow robots as they move through production, supplying them with parts from localized stations. This will allow production to adapt and scale efficiently to changes in China’s robot market without additional capacity expansions.

“There’s a large shift away from looking at factory size and CAPEX investments as the way to meet future demand. The concept behind our new factory is to make the smartest and most flexible use of every meter of production. That comes from combining agile automation solutions with the great capabilities of our people,” said Per Vegard Nerseth, Managing Director of ABB’s Robotics business.

The plant will also use ABB’s SafeMove2 software, which allows people and robots to work safely in close proximity. In addition, ABB’s YuMi robots will allow close collaboration on many of the small parts assembly tasks needed to manufacture an ABB robot.

“2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up policy,” said Dr. Chunyuan Gu, Chairman of ABB China and President of the AMEA region. “ABB was an early arriver in China and we now have a fully localized value chain, supported by China’s remarkable economic and social development. As the market leader in China’s robotics industry, we are glad to build on this success and continue our investment momentum.”

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