Robot has become a fashion in South China.
Chinese cities have no shortage of megamalls and markets selling everything a shopper could want. But one new south China retail complex will offer just one thing: robots.
Government officials in Guangdong province's Foshan city announced Friday that they will open a 20,000-square-meter-plus "robot supermarket" in the city's Shunde District.
The first-of-its-kind center will open to the public in September. It will give robotics developers a place to exhibit and sell their latest models, as well as provide a platform for research and development and intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, said Xuan Ganhua, an official with the local robotics industry area in Shunde.
"It will incorporate robot sales and exhibitions as well as labs where industrial robots are designed, programmed and built," Xuan said, adding that robots at the center will serve different industrial sectors, including automobiles, furniture and machine tools.
An IPR protection court will also be located on the premises, Xuan added.
Officials have set the bar high for vendors, allowing only well-known brands to join. A total of 30 Chinese and foreign brands will have a presence during the initial phase.
"We have already chosen some companies from scores of applications, including German brand Kuka, and we are still in the selection process," said Lie Haijian, deputy district head of Shunde.
Shunde is a model area for robotics development in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong. The district currently boasts more than 20 robotics companies, with the number of robots produced growing 30 percent annually.
The main complex of the center has been completed, and workers are decorating the interior, according to Xinhua reporters at the site.
Robotics to automate jobs
The role of industrial robots is growing in China as the country's manufacturing industry feels the pinch of a worker shortage and soaring labor costs.
Last year, some 56,000 industrial robots were sold in the Chinese market, up 54 percent annually. According to the International Federation of Robotics, China will have purchased 400,000 industrial robots by 2017.
"The 'supermarket' will be conducive to development in the robotics industry in China because it will bring the world's latest technology into one platform," said Yang Yang, General Manager of Changsha Chaint Robotics Co Ltd.
Despite growing demand, China's domestically produced robots still lag behind international producers. Last year, robots from domestic producers only accounted for 28.6 percent of the total sold on the Chinese market, and even robots classified as domestic rely on key imported components.
"The new 'supermarket' gives companies from home and abroad a chance to compete and learn from each other," said He Minjia, General Manager of GSK CNC Equipment Co Ltd., a Guangzhou company focused on numerical control of machine tools.
"It might be difficult to present all kinds of robots in just one supermarket, but I think it sets up a very good example of how the industry could go in the future," He added.
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