SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Austrian robotics manufacturer Wittmann Robot Systems GmbH has opened a small assembly plant in Brazil that makes feeder systems, with eventual plans to expand the plant to making small robots.
Wittmann will spend at least $2 million by the end of the year on its factory in Campinas, near Sao Paulo, said Alejandro Wiederhold, general director of the wholly owned subsidiary Wittmann do Brasil Ltda. In the second half of the year, the plant will add assembly for hot-air dryers and grinders.
The company plans to add manufacturing for other dryers and humidifiers in 2002 and after that, screw pickers and pneumatic robots, he said.
"There is no question [they eventually will build pneumatic robots]," Wiederhold said. "The only thing we don't have plans for here is the large robots."
In Brazil, Wittmann will be using technology from its Canadian subsidiary, Nucon Systems Inc. The company will make some other changes in product offerings, such as providing stainless steel as the standard in Brazil because of moisture requirements, Wiederhold said.
The plant currently employs 13 in a 10,800-square-foot leased building. The company plans to build its own structure within two years.
The chief reason for the local manufacturing is to avoid tariffs and import taxes that can run from 30-60 percent for Wittmann's products, he said. The plant will export to all of South America.
The Brazilian market for robots is like the U.S. market 15 years ago — not many companies use them, Wiederhold said: "For robots, it is still a virgin market."
The most potential is for feeding systems and screw pickers, while only the auto industry in Brazil tends to want more sophisticated components, he said. But the Brazilian industry will need to invest or it will not be competitive with global plastics processors, he said.