Delta sets up robotics lab in Singapore

  • June 14, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson
From the left: Tzi-Cker Chiueh, Yancey Hai, Alvin Tan, Ho Teck Hua, and Lam Khin Yong, vice president of NTU.

Taiwanese firm Delta Electronics has established a $24m robotics laboratory at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

The lab, supported under Singapore’s National Research Foundation’s Research Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 plan, will develop over three years technologies aimed at overcoming labour shortages for manufacturing and intralogistics.

Collaborative robotic systems are set to become a staple as businesses transit into Industry 5.0, and as the world grapples with a labour shortage arising from an ageing workforce and declining birth-rates. Such systems include human-touch inspired robots that can adjust their grip to pick up a range of materials, from fragile glassware to volatile chemicals, and smart sensing, radar and 3D sensors systems, which allow autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to operate in a dynamic environment with human traffic, as in hospitals and warehouses.

“This corporate lab with Delta Electronics proves that NTU’s research activities are industry relevant,” said NTU president Ho Teck Hua. “The lab creates opportunities for us to translate our research into impactful, real-world innovations. This is in line with the NTU 2025 strategic vision, to harness the power of digital and advanced technologies to support the discovery of new knowledge and promote better learning and living experiences.”

Yancey Hai, chair of Delta Electronics, added: “We are honoured to further our long-term cooperation with NTU following the success in the field of cyber-physical systems, especially as ou new joint Delta-NTU Corporate Lab for Advanced Robotics has earned the support of Singapore’s RIE 2025 initiative. We intend to leverage Delta’s smart manufacturing prowess and autonomous mobile robot know-how, as well as our Delta-NTU R&D talent to develop essential technologies for the next-generation of autonomous mobile robots. The innovation milestones of this lab will help multiple industries solve key challenges, enhance Singapore’s long-term resilience, and improve the quality of life of its citizens.”

The establishment of the joint lab marks a new phase of the partnership between NTU and Delta Electronics, which dates back to 2016 when they set up the Delta-NTU Corporate Laboratory for Cyber-Physical Systems with a focus on using cyber-physical systems to build technological capabilities for use in smart manufacturing and smart learning. In 2018, the lab was expanded to accommodate more research activities.

Over the past five years, the team filed 17 patents, of which eight have been issued and submitted more than 200 papers to journals and conferences. It also supported more than 140 NTU research staff and graduate students, as well as scientists and engineers from the Delta Research Centre in Singapore.

Notable projects include a universal smart navigation system where logistics robots autonomously move goods around factory floors, and learning analytics technology to improve learning effectiveness in the education industry.

“We have secured various patents through our collaboration with NTU Singapore,” said Tzi-cker Chiueh, general director of the Delta Research Centre. “These achievements demonstrate the high potential for commercialisation of the technologies we have developed together. Some of these patents relate to 3D mapping and localisation for automated guided vehicles, human tracking and re- identification, and robotic arm manipulation techniques. This intellectual property will serve as a solid foundation for this new lab and, thus, we look forward to working together to meet the complex needs of several industries.”

Co-director of the Delta-NTU Corporate Lab for Advanced Robotics, Andy Khong, added: “Encouraged by the strong foundation laid in NTU’s initial collaboration with Delta Electronics, we are now ready to deepen the partnership by moving into research and development for advanced robotics.”

And Quek Tong Boon, chief executive of the National Robotics Programme (NRP), said: “The National Robotics Programme welcomes this NTU-Delta partnership and looks forward to the build-up and commercialisation of more differentiated robotics capabilities for the manufacturing and logistics domains in Singapore and beyond. We hope to see more of such institutes of higher learning-industry collaborations, which form an integral part of our growing robotics ecosystem.”

The official opening this month was attended by Alvin Tan, minister of state for the Ministry of Trade & Industry.