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Japanese manufacturers are making inroads in advancing industrial robots and factory automation systems as they seek to stem the country’s growing labor shortage.

Nidec-Shimpo, a subsidiary of Nidec, has developed a self-driving cart that can ride elevators between floors. The Kyoto-based company’s product wirelessly tells the elevator its target floor and waits to enter the elevator if its lasers detect people stepping off.

Kyoto-based Rohm on the other hand is selling a system that links devices emitting wireless signals of varying ranges in a factory, making it easier to use IoT technology. Manufacturers simply need to install Rohm’s parts and sensors to create a system that collects data from across the factory. This will cost roughly half as much as designing a custom-made system, the company said in a press release.

Electronics company Omron is planning to develop a quality control system with camera maker Sentech. The system will feature cameras placed on assembly lines or on robot arms themselves that will shoot series of high-resolution photographs which can be arranged to create 3D images of products for quality inspection.

Big names like Fanuc are spending about $573 million to build a factory for industrial robots next to its Tsukuba plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo. The company eventually aims to produce 11,000 robots monthly, almost double its current output.

Another leading manufacturer, Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ twin-armed duAro robot – which can work on factory lines alongside people – has reached sales of roughly 2,000 units since going on the market in June 2015.

Image credits and content: Nikkei Asian Review

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