The machine tool actually is not that complicated.
China has already cracked the low- and mid-range machine tools.
The problem with high end machines is not how difficult the technology is to overcome, but how unprofitable it is.
In fact, it’s similar to the metal ball of a ball-point pen before.
The market for high-end machine tools is not large, and the development cycle can be very long.
If it is not a model upgrade but starting from scratch, then the R&D of a medium to high-end machine tool can casually throw in several hundred million RMB.
The R&D cycle is several years long, while the returns are more limited.
Due to low market demand and very fragmented, the payback period may be more than ten years.
The return on investment ratio for high-end machine tools is even worse.
For most mass-produced industrial production, high-end machines are not really needed.
Let’s look at the following video of panel bender first:
This machine is a fully automatic panel bender from the Italian manufacturer Savanini, which sells for one million euros.
Is this machine good? Yes, it’s very good. The bending workers will be silent at the sight of it, the sheet metal engineers will weep.
But is it needed on mass production? It is hardly necessary.
In fact, today’s mass production prefers semi-automatic machines and highly customized manual/semi-automatic equipment because of the high degree of control over processes, sequences, and deployment locations, as well as the low cost.
A well-deployed production line consisting of semi-automatic machines can achieve higher productivity than these fully automatic high-end machines at the same cost.
Even if a full automation makeover is required, the dominant thinking in recent times has been to have fully automated production lines consisting of industrial robots along with program-controlled semi-automatic customized machines/machines.
These high-end machines are typically used to produce small quantities of products, such as custom products, prototypes, process tests, and so on.
Not only are they expensive to acquire, but they are also expensive to use and maintain, and the operators have certain educational requirements.
Therefore, the application areas will be very narrow at least in the next decade or two.
In this case, invest heavily in research and development of high-end machine tools, is not necessarily a very economical investment behavior.
To prevent China from doing a good job with high-end machine tools, mainly the market is not big enough with not big enough returns.
Today, there are still so many people who genuinely believe that high-end machine tools are some kind of black technology that China can’t break through.
There are even still people who take the Soviet Union buying Japanese machine tools to prove that China can’t make them.
The Soviet Union has been dead for almost 30 years now, come on.
This mentality, frankly, I’ve seen in many traditional industries.
After so many years of development, China’s R&D capabilities are already not what they used to be.
It’s underestimating today’s China to take a technology developed by foreigners 30 or 40 years ago and claim that China can’t develop it today even after investing enough money.
It’s not that China can’t make a panel bender like the one produced by Savagnini, it’s that it’s not willing to do it.