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Era of 24/7 unattended output is here

China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-17 09:24

Visitors check out automated logistics at a booth during the CeMAT Asia, one of Asia's largest logistics exhibitions, held in Shanghai in November 2020. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Mobile phones, steel are among the sectors going fully automated

BEIJING-From steel plates and mobile phones to household motors and rocket ignition device parts, more business lines in China are using artificial intelligence to power their production and have introduced "dark factories" with their 24-hour uninterrupted and unattended production capabilities.

Dark factories, also called smart factories, are entirely run by programmed robots with no need for lighting. They are expected to reduce labor costs, improve production efficiency and product quality, and carry out production under hazardous conditions to ensure worker safety.

To replace people with machines to do high-intensity, repetitive, tedious and even dangerous work is an essential step toward smart manufacturing in China's iron and steel industry. A dark factory of Baogang Group in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region uses robots to separate slag from molten steel. The slag discharge rate was reduced from 10 percent to 9 percent, and the one percentage point could save nearly $100,000 every year for the factory.

The Xi'an Aerospace Propulsion Institute is a research base for China's solid-fuel rocket engines. Production demand at the institute has been growing rapidly with the accelerated development of China's space industry in recent years. Without sufficient human and material resources, the institute achieved a 24-hour production mode for rocket ignition parts.

At night, automated equipment carries out the initial processing of parts at the dark factory. During the day, experienced workers give the finishing touches. The collaboration between machines and people doubles the production efficiency.

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