Foxconn's parent may be planning to make robots

Foxconn has previously said it plans to deploy 1 million robots in its factories

The parent of Apple supplier Foxconn has broken ground on a new R&D (research and development) facility in Taiwan to produce what could be robots that will be used in the company's manufacturing facilities.

Hon Hai Precision Industry Company held a groundbreaking ceremony this past weekend for its "Intelligent Automation R&D Facility", which will be built in the Taichung Science Park in Taiwan.

In July, Hon Hai's chairman Terry Gou said the company plans to deploy 1 million robots over the next three years at the company's Foxconn factories.

In a statement, Hon Hai would not elaborate on the kind of automation its new R&D facility will produce, but said that it would be used in its factories across the globe. The company said it would also use the facility to tap opportunities to supply equipment in "intelligent automation."

Hon Hai plans to invest NT$6.7 billion (US$224 million) in the project, according to a statement from authorities of the Taichung Science Park.

Hon Hai's Foxconn is one of the world's largest electronics manufacturer, whose clients include Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Nintendo. A string of suicides last year, involving workers jumping off company buildings, damaged Foxconn's reputation, and prompted Apple to investigate.

In relying more on automation, Foxconn wants to move the company's workers "higher up the value chain, beyond basic manufacturing work," according to an earlier company statement.

Experts have said the automation will not only help Foxconn deal with labor shortages, but also improve working conditions at its factories.

"It's a real answer to solving the problems Foxconn has had hiring, training and maintaining the morale of their workforce," said Frank Tobe, the owner of The Robot Report, a website that tracks the robotics industry.

"Some are skeptical that what they are planning isn't really to build robots, but rather automation machinery," he added. "But two different contacts of mine say the opposite: Foxconn is planning on entering the robot manufacturing business with a variety of flexible, easily trainable and low-cost assembly line robots."

Amy Teng, an analyst at research firm Gartner, said a key advantage of using robots is that they will be able to handle more dangerous work, such as chemical treating used in the manufacturing of electronics. But it is unclear how effective robots will be in building handheld electronics like smartphones.

"Robot arms are usually used on cars, big machinery. Very few are used on smartphones," she said. In the case of Apple's iPhone, due to its small compact size, hands are needed to properly connect all the wiring inside. "I don't think a robot arm can handle that. It's so sophisticated, that it is something I don't think robot arms can help with."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Electronics manufacturingfoxconnroboticsHealth and safetyHon Haienvironment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?