At a cocktail party hosted by Harmonic Drive Systems at the annual RoboBusiness conference and expo held September 27-28 in Santa Clara, CA, CEOs from Harmonic Drive US and Japan gave short speeches about Harmonic and their 4X expansion program to handle increasing global demand for Harmonic Drive gears and other critical components involved in the manufacture of robots.
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in a September 27th announcement, forecast that 1.7 new industrial robots will be installed around the world by 2020 at a 13% annual growth rate. The IFR also cited the dramatic rise of collaborative robots in the industrial space. Almost all of those robots contains six, seven or more Harmonic Drive gears – one for each degree of freedom.
In a previous announcement in August, 2017, the IFR described the massive increases in the purchase and deployment of industrial robots in China and their growing in-country robot manufacturing capability — except for key components such as Harmonic Drive gears and speed reducers which they must buy from international vendors such as Harmonic Drive Systems.
Harmonic has had to extend delivery times in recent months as the demand for harmonic drives and other critical components has exceeded their capacity to build them. They received $76.9 million in speed reducer orders for industrial robots in the January-March period, more than double the amount from the previous quarter. The company added production lines and established a two-shift system but still cannot match demand. US CEO Doug Olson described the growing demand, particularly in Asia, and cited their current production of 95,000 units per month. He announced that Harmonic is immediately increasing that number to 115,000 and that two new facilities – one in Matsumoto City, Nagano and the other in the U.S. – are under construction at a cost of $300 million to further bump up production. Those new facilities will be ready by 2020 and enable production of 400,000 devices per month – a four-times increase in production capacity.
In the interim, other companies are benefitting from Harmonic’s delivery problems. Cone Drive, Nidec-Shimpo, Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Nabtesco are all increasing their own production capacities to grab market share.