Interview with Dr. Cao Yunan, Chairman and CEO of ELITE Robotics
At the upcoming GG Robotic Golden Globe Awards annual conference this week, ELITE brought PCB board pick-and-place and inspection workstations. In this application, the PCB board is randomly placed on the picking table, and the camera takes a picture to obtain the board position. SCARA clamps the PCB board and places it on the placing table according to the board position and the collaborative robot takes the tray from the placing table and puts it on the inspection table. After testing, the robot removes the tray, and then SCARA will randomly place the PCB board on the tray to the picking table. After the PCB board is taken out, the robot puts the tray on the placing table and enters the next rotation cycle. This application restores the real working conditions on the production line and demonstrates the advantages of different types of robots — SCARA is good at high speed and plane motion and is suitable for simple transfer applications. However, collaborative robots are flexible in deployment and compact in structure, occupying only 1-1.5 stations, and support multi-angle movement. Therefore, when replacing the labor of the current production line, there is no need to change the existing layout. The needs of different locations and complex paths can be taken care of.
1. Six years ago, where were you? What were you doing?
Recently, the reporter interviewed Dr. Cao Yunan, CEO of ELITE Technology Co., Ltd., a company that has been established for three years. Similarly, Cao has been given a lot of “labels”. Cao Yunan was a PhD at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA), a researcher at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and an associate professor at Beijing Jiaotong University before starting his own business. Perhaps it was because he is well versed in the development of the robotics industry, or that he is full of passion and determination for this industry, this 40-year-old “slashie” enables ELITE Robot to lay out 38 patents in just three years after its establishment, and to become the only company in China that achieved mass production of seven-axis collaborative robots.
“Our entire founding team is from BUAA Robotics Institute, so the technology research and development are in ELITE’s DNA. As early as 2003, my classmates and I got our hands on the development of the controller – the first controller system GSK980TD. As a result, ELITE’s founding team started from the field of numerical control.” Cao Yunan said to reporters: “By 2009, the team cooperated with Eft to develop a robot controller, which marked the official entrance into the field of robot control. Today, ELITE has nearly 16 years of technology accumulation in the field of robot control. From the bottom-level operating system, to embedded hardware and software, to technology packages and top computing power, ELITE has independently developed all of the above. In the aspect of the cooperative robot’s modular joint technology, everything is marked with ELITE, except for the reducer.”
2. What has changed the most during the past six years? What did you insist on doing? How do you evaluate yourself today?
Compared to the hard skill sets, ELITE has grown to be prouder of our “soft power” in recent years. Our team has an excellent lineup in terms of educational background and career experience. ELITE also completed the layout of the entire product line and marketing network in a very short period of time. It is not difficult to see from our development history that ELITE has very strong productization capabilities, and both our self-research rate and product range coverage are quite remarkable. However, we must realize that in addition to the “productization” that can detonate the business, we also need “product capability”. That is to say, can our products impress users? As a relatively new domestic robot manufacturer, why are users willing to try ELITE robots? These are the real issues that we have to tackle. ELITE currently converges its product line on collaborative robots. This is a step that I must take as a company founder, and a very educational step.
I often tell my team that sometimes I don’t think I can do much more for the company. Because ELITE has the most professional players in the organizational structure and functional positions. Therefore, I compare myself to the “Tang Monk”, and the only thing I insist on is “I believe we can get the True Scriptures.” The most important thing for me is to always believe that all changes and growth that ELITE is going through are for the ultimate goal of becoming a great robot company and providing value to users.
3. During the past six years, what has been the most impressive thing of being in the intelligent manufacturing industry and your segment?
From the perspective of a robot manufacturer, to become a great robot company, in addition to mastering the robot’s independent research and development technology, it is also necessary for us to accurately grasp the current industry trends and to think more about the evolving robot market. Although machine substitution has become the trend of this era, it is also important to see that the market is highly fragmented behind all the prosperity. Enterprises need to aim at customized and integrated business strategies. “Now, we are not only limited to promoting ELITE’s collaborative robot products, but also focusing on how to provide clients with customized product solutions, present clients, integrators and agents with complete application scenarios and let users enjoy the benefits of collaborative robots’ ‘turn-key plan.’ Cao Yunan said.
The intelligent manufacturing industry is a more macro market. In recent years, we have maintained close relationships with many manufacturing enterprises and users and have grown together. From them, I saw some urgent needs for efficiency and flexibility, but also confusion. Taking an automotive electronics project successfully introduced by ELITE last year, traditional industrial robots are still the main focus in this project, but we have found that some requirements were difficult to achieve with traditional products, which was precisely the opportunity for collaborative robots. It is also worth noting that for factories, when they ask for automation upgrades, they sometimes fall into a certain fixed mindset — for example, the lack of innovative methods or innovative tools. And sometimes the problem is more serious, maybe the purpose of automation was not clear at the beginning. For example, they do not understand their own current automation needs and plateaus; or they do not know where the robot can come into play during the production automation process. What problems do they need to solve with robots? Therefore, if the ‘expectation’ of the automatic upgrade is unreasonable and the ‘demand’ is unclear at the beginning, then it is likely that there will be lots of difficulties finding the right cure.