Hiwin introduces first Taiwan-designed wafer take-off robot

March 14, 2007 – Hiwin Technologies Corp., Taiwan’s largest manufacturer of linear mechanical transmission components, has made a breakthrough in the field of robots, the Taiwan Economic News (CENS) reports. The company’s president, Eric Y.T. Chuo, announced in January that Hiwin had developed the island’s first wafer take-off robot in cooperation with WIN Semiconductors Corp.

The paper says the two companies have agreed to work more closely to develop automated production equipment for the robots, which WIN executives say have passed certification and are already rolling off the company’s production lines.

This news is sure to have an impact on Taiwan’s industry; in the past, wafer take-off robots had to be imported at a cost of more than US$200,000 each. The Hiwin products are only one-fourth the cost of imported robots, according to the paper’s WIN sources.

WIN vice president Hua Chang-huang says his company will integrate transmission component technology developed by Hiwin with linear motor technology developed by a Hiwin subsidiary, Hiwin Microsystems Inc., to develop a multistack machine capable of more than three manufacturing processes.

Hiwin itself specializes in the development and production of ball screws and linear guideways, which it markets worldwide under its own “Hiwin” brand. It also produces system and sub-system components, industrial robots, and a variety of machine tools, and has set up subsidiaries or R&D centers in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Russia.

CENS’ report indicates a growing interest in developing industrial robots in Taiwan; others are also working with government agencies and research institutions in this area. The Taiwan Robot Industry Development Association was inaugurated on March 8 with support from the Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry (TAMI) and participation by the governmental, academic, and industrial sectors. The new association is reportedly sponsoring a robot competition at the 2007 Taipei International Machine Tool Show (TITMOS), held March 12-17 at the Taipei World Trade Center.

Hiwin’s Chuo, who has been elected chairman of the robot association, says that he developed a vision of the comprehensive application of robots in multistack machine tools while visiting the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) in Tokyo last November. He believes Taiwan should take its cue from the rapid development of robots in Japan.

Although Taiwan’s robot industry is in the early stages of development, several educational institutions have organized robot demonstrations and competitions to encourage innovation, and in the middle of last year Teco held its first annual creative robot contests.

Still, the island’s robot industry has already achieved a substantial scale; production value reached NT$20 billion (US$615.38 million) in 2005, mostly from the development of automation applications as well as entertainment and industrial products. Manufacturers in the field are concentrated in northern Taiwan and focus on the development of robotic arms, four-axis robots, system integration, and the provision of value-added services.

Potential for this industry in Taiwan is already growing, according to CENS. TAMI reports that the global industrial-robot industry has grown at an annual clip of more than 20% since 2003, and that its production value is forecast to reach NT$250 billion (US$7.69 billion) in 2015.


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