When it comes to the world’s industrial robots manufacturers, the four major brands represented by FANUC, KUKA, ABB and YASKAWA Electric cannot be ignored.
In the Asian market, they are equally important, with over 70% market share of China’s robotics industry.
So, what are the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of each of the four brands of robot products?
The four brands have their own strengths in various technical fields.
ABB’s core areas are in control systems, KUKA in system integration applications and on-body manufacturing, FANUC in CNC systems, and YASKAWA in servo motors and motion controllers.
|KUKA||Germany||Welding equipment, robot body, system integration, logistics automation||“The purest” robot company. The automotive industry has core customers such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The high-end manufacturing customers have a wide range of industries. The robot uses an open operating system; North America is KUKA’s largest market in the world.||Automotive Manufacturing|
|ABB||Switzerland||Power products, power systems, low voltage products, discrete automation and motion control and process automation, system integration business||Power motor and automation equipment giant; the group has outstanding advantages, strong system integration capabilities, and outstanding core technology advantages in motion control; China has become ABB’s second-largest market in the world||Electronic and electrical, logistics handling|
|FANUC||Japan||CNC system, automation, robot||Focus on the field of CNC system, standardized programming, convenient operation; core components except the reducer can be self-sufficient, and the profitability is extremely strong||The automotive industry, electrical and electronic|
|YASKAWA||Japan||Electric motor equipment, motion control, servo motor, robot body||Japan’s first company to do servo motors; a typical integrated robot enterprise, with close coordination of various business departments, and key components such as servos and controllers are self-sufficient and cost-effective||Electronic and electrical, transportation|
ABB is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.
The business covers five major areas: power products, discrete automation, motion control, process automation, and low voltage products, and is best known for its power and automation technology.
ABB emphasizes the integrity of the robot itself, and with its six-axis robot, the single-axis speed is not the fastest, but the accuracy is high when the six axes work together.
ABB’s core technology is the motion control system, which is also the biggest challenge for the robot itself.
By mastering motion control technology, it is possible for ABB to easily realize the performance of robots with a precision of path, speed of motion, cycle time, programmable design, etc., and greatly improve the quality, efficiency and reliability of production.
Technology: algorithms are best but slightly more expensive
ABB first started with inverters, and in China, most of the power stations and inverter stations are made by ABB.
For the robot itself, the biggest difficulty is the motion control system, which is ABB’s core strength.
It can be said that ABB’s robotic algorithms are the best of the four main brands, not only has a comprehensive motion control solution, the product use technical documentation is also quite professional and specific.
It is reported that ABB’s control cabinet comes with Robot Studio software, which allows for 3D running simulation and online functionality.
The connection with external devices supports a variety of common industrial bus interfaces, and can also be used to communicate with various brands of welding power supply, cutting power supply, PLC, etc. through the labeled input and output interfaces.
In addition, the ABB control cabinet can be freely set the parameters of current, voltage, speed, oscillation and other parameters of the arc starting, heating, welding, arc closing section, can be set by itself to achieve a variety of complex oscillation trajectory.
ABB also focuses on the overall characteristics of the robot, and the design of the robot while emphasizing quality.
However, it is well known that ABB robots equipped with high standard control systems are very expensive.
In addition, a number of companies responded that among the four main brands, ABB has the longest lead time.
Domestic market analysis
ABB’s strategy in China is to focus on cooperation with major Chinese customers. Huawei, Changhong, Topstar are the leaders in 3C home appliance industry, application side and integrator, respectively.
They have the role of a weathervane in the industry, from which it can be seen that ABB has a high degree of importance to the 3C industry.
Its future products will be more integration of intelligent, connected, big data and other advanced technologies. Enterprise ontology is beginning to move towards the application side, and its relationship with system integrators will be closer. At the same time, ontology itself has begun to focus on the development of integrated applications.
KUKA was founded in Augsburg, Germany in 1898 and initially focused on interior and urban lighting, but soon moved into other areas.
KUKA’s main customers come from the automotive industry and it is also focused on providing advanced automation solutions for industrial processes, even involved in brain surgery and radiography in hospitals.
KUKA robots can be used for material handling, processing, spot welding and arc welding, involving industries such as automation, metal processing, food and plastics.
Technology: simple to operate, but high failure rate
Midea’s acquisition of KUKA made KUKA a hit.
If ABB is the Mercedes in the car, then KUKA is the BMW in the car, although it is also a high-end car, but the BMW rework rate is higher than Mercedes.
It is reported that the return rate of KUKA robots is higher compared to ABB, FANUC and other robots.
Informed people who have used KUKA robots report that almost every day a robot fails.
The advantage of KUKA’s domestic sales lies in good secondary development.
Even a man who has no technical foundation at all, can get started in one day. On the man-machine interface, in order to cater to the habits of the Chinese people, KUKA made it very simple, as easy to use as playing a game console.
In comparison, Japanese brand robots have many control system keyboards, and the operation is slightly more complicated.
It is worth mentioning that KUKA has done better in the field of heavy-duty robots.
Among the robots above 120KG, KUKA and ABB have the most market shares, and among the heavy-loaded 400KG and 600KG robots, KUKA has the most sales.
Domestic market analysis
KUKA is currently accelerating the deployment of localized services in the Chinese market and exploring new territories in the Southwest.
In the future, it will continue to exert efforts in the field of automotive equipment.
The acquisition of KUKA by Midea has been recorded in history, and it has a major impact on the influence of the two major brands and the market response.
The joint effect of Midea + KUKA in the future is also worth looking forward to.
FANUC was founded in 1956 and three years later, it debuted the electro-hydraulic stepper motor.
In the 1970s, benefiting from the rapid development of microelectronics technology, power electronics technology, especially computing technology, FANUC decided to abandon the CNC products of the electro-hydraulic stepper motor that made it make a fortune and began the transformation.
In 1976, FANUC successfully developed a CNC system, and then jointly developed a high-level CNC system with Siemens, and gradually became one of the strongest CNC system, design and manufacturing companies in the world today.
FANUC is a global professional CNC manufacturer, industrial robots are unique compared to other companies: process control is more convenient, the same type of robot base size is smaller, and it has a unique arm design.
Technology: very high accuracy, but not overload
FANUC ‘s research on CNC systems dates back to 1956, when forward-looking Japanese technologists foresaw the advent of the 3C era and formed a research team.
By applying the advantages of the CNC system to the robot, FANUC ‘s industrial robots are also highly accurate.
It is reported that FANUC ‘s multi-functional six-axis small robot can achieve a repeatable positioning accuracy of ± 0.02mm.
In addition, FANUC Industrial Robotics is unique compared to other companies in: Process control is more convenient, the same type of robot has a smaller base size and a unique arm design.
It is worth mentioning that FANUC has also applied the blade compensation function of CNC machine finishing to the robot.
Blade compensation is implanted in the algorithm, which allows the robot to go inward in a circle during the finishing cut.
The YASKAWA robot itself does not have this function, and the only way to achieve this function is through secondary development to compensate for the function, and this is also the point where some customers have commented that the YASKAWA robot is not convenient.
But FANUC has not done the best job in terms of robot stability.
When running at full load, FANUC ‘s robot will alarm when the speed reaches 80%, which also shows that FANUC ‘s robot’s overload capacity is not very good.
Therefore, FANUC ‘s advantages lie in light-load, high-precision applications, which is why FANUC ‘s miniaturized robots (under 24KG) are sold well.
Domestic market analysis
FANUC ‘s strategy is slightly different from others in that its strategy is to find and enter markets where demand is high, so it is targeting the Chinese market, which has great growth potential.
In China, 55% of FANUC ‘s sales of industrial robots are used in the general manufacturing industry, with the top three in the home appliance, logistics and electrical and electronic industries.
FANUC is the current market total sales of the largest robot brand, does not rely on the sales of large customers, using the open market strategy.
Founded in 1915, YASKAWA is Japan’s largest industrial robotics company, headquartered in Kitakyushu Island, Fukuoka.
In 1977, YASKAWA developed and produced Japan’s first fully electrified industrial robot by using its own motion control technology.
In 1977, YASKAWA developed and produced Japan’s first fully electrified industrial robot using its own motion control technology, and has since developed various automated robots for welding, assembly, painting, and handling, leading the global industrial robot market.
The main servo and motion controllers produced by YASKAWA are the key parts for manufacturing robots, and the company has successively developed various automated robots for welding, assembly, spraying, and handling. Its core industrial robotics products include: Spot and arc welding robots, paint and processing robots, LCD glass plate transfer robots and semiconductor chip transfer robots, etc.
It was one of the first manufacturers to apply industrial robots to semiconductor production.
Technology: good stability, but slightly less accuracy
With a history of nearly 100 years of electric motor technology, YASKAWA ‘s AC servo and inverter market share is the largest in the world.
As early as 1977, YASKAWA developed Japan’s first fully electric industrial robot.
YASKAWA starts with the motor, so it can maximize the inertia of the motor, so the best features of YASKAWA robots are high load, high stability.
It will not alarm during full-load operation at full speed and is even capable of overload operation.
As a result, YASKAWA has a relatively large market in heavy-duty robotics applications, such as the automotive industry.
The accuracy of the YASKAWA robots is not that high compared to that of the FANUC robots.
On the basis of the same price, if customers demand high precision, they will often choose FANUC ‘s robots.
However, YASKAWA Robot has a clear price advantage. It can be said that it is the cheapest among the four major brands and has a high price-performance ratio.
YASKAWA ‘s welding robots, which include welding kits, are only quoted at 130,000-140,000, and compared to Panasonic’s welding robots, YASKAWA takes the road of mass production.
Domestic market analysis
In recent years, YASKAWA has been making a lot of moves in the domestic market, such as building new robotics centers, increasing investment in factories, and establishing a joint venture with the U.S. in order to accelerate the localization of its services.
China is a demand-side market and the United States is also a home appliance giant, and the huge demand for robots can help YASKAWA achieve sales growth.
YASKAWA has been working on service robots, especially in the medical robotics field, but it is not going well in the Japanese market, which could bring new growth in the domestic service robot market.
At present, all major robotics companies tend to seek cooperation with larger application-based companies, and with the increasing competition in the market, such strategic cooperation will become more frequent in the future.
The best of the industrial robotic bodies are European products, with KUKA at the top.
When the four major brands entered the Asian market, the quality of ABB’s localized machines declined, and the CP value of Japan’s YASKAWA and FANUC was higher compared to that of European and American products, which was more in line with customer demand in China.
Nowadays, robot manufacturers usually prefer to cooperate with well-known automobiles brands, such as Fosse Motors only uses KUKA, GM mainly uses FANUC, European brands prefer ABB, etc., which is closely related to the strategic adjustment of the four major brands of the industry.
All four brands started out in the robotics industry chain related business, such as ABB and YASKAWA Electric engaged in power equipment motor business, FANUC research CNC systems, KUKA initially engaged in welding equipment.
They have become the world’s leading integrated industrial automation company because they have mastered the technology of the robot body and its core components, and have invested in research that has led to integrated development.
Regardless of historical reasons or cultural influences, we can see from the products of these four main robotics companies that companies choose different development paths in the face of market changes, and who can go further will ultimately be determined by the market.