Hanover Fair highlights Japanese robots and sumo

Business Materials 18 April 2008 07:33 (UTC +04:00)

Innovations from Japan including robots and a virtual power station are to have pride of place at the Hanover Fair in Germany next week alongside sumo wrestlers and traditional taiko drummers. ( dpa )

The April 21-25 fair has appointed high-tech Japan this year as partner nation. The annual fair, with 5,100 companies from 62 nations exhibiting, is a major venue for showing heavy industrial equipment.

Partner-nation status means Japan, the second-biggest industrialized economy in the world in GDP terms, can show off its latest robots, industrial automation solutions, environmental technology, nanotechnology and energy research.

Within the European Union, Germany is Japan's principal trade partner.

Kawasaki Robotics, which has had an office at Neuss, Germany for the past 13 years, will be showing off industrial robots that include two new products.

"We'll be exhibiting Edu-Pack, a little, 3-kilogram robot intended for teachers and laboratory scientists at universities and trade training schools," said Carsten Stumpf of Kawasaki Robotics.

"They can use it to demonstrate programming and ways to use industrial robots to their students. It comes complete with simulation software, a camera system and a notebook computer."

At the Kawasaki booth, visitors will see a couple of mini-robots as they backtrack through several twists of a Rubik's cube.

Looking like toys, the devices cooperate, using a video camera and computer power to analyse colours and patterns. The assignment is restore the arrangement of the cube to where it was when the exercise began.

"A vision system like this is especially useful in manufacturing if a camera system can dynamically recognize individual items coming along a production line," Stumpf explained. Kawasaki Robotics will be one of 150 Japanese companies at the fair.

A Hanover Fair novelty this year is a special robot show that will include not just factory devices, but also for the home and public use. In Japan, service robots are under development that can clean buildings, brew tea, or help in the household.

Japan's research and development spending is among the highest in the world.

Energy efficiency and global warming are also on this year's Hanover Fair agenda.

Top Japanese energy-business companies at the fair will include Mitsubishi Electric, Sharp and Nippon Oil.

Mitsubishi Electric said its booth will offer visitors "a mixture of technical innovation and Japanese culture."

A spokeswoman from Mitsubishi Electric's German office said the Fair would be the first occasion that a new product, iQ, has been shown in Europe.

This is a "platform" that can control the entire production process at every level in the manufacturing of cars or machinery.

Other events include the German Japanese Forum on Photovoltaic Technology and Japanese Microtechnology Day.

Hitachi Power Europe, the German-based subsidiary of Hitachi, will be showing new technology for electricity generation including turbines, catalytic converters and "virtual power station."

Iwaki Europe, a pump manufacturer which has had a European arm since 1985, will show fuel-cell components. Sales chief Berthold Resch said, "These products are mainly intended for medical technology companies, building-heating makers and the motor trade."

More than 1,000 Japanese companies have offices in Germany, with nearly 500 of them concentrated in one state, North Rhine Westphalia in the West.

The Japanese consulate-general in Dusseldorf and NRW.Invest, an agency promoting investment, calculate they have annual sales of 35 billion euros and employ 26,000 people in the state.

Amid the noise at the Hanover Fair will be a booming taiko drum just to make sure no one forgets who is partner nation.

Visitors are also expected to be impressed at a thoroughly traditional sumo tournament, the Sumo Hanover Fair Cup, in the midst of all that technology, with weighty wrestlers flying in to demonstrate their venerable sport.