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Business trends

China emerges as battleground for key robot part

One domestic company and two from Japan compete in crucial arm gear market

Dozens of industrial robot makers in China have few options to differentiate themselves other than to cut prices. But in the parts market, one niche promises riches.

SHENZHEN -- As global demand for industrial robots swells, three companies find themselves in a pitched battle for supremacy in the market for a quality-defining component of robot arms.

The producers of small precision reduction gears used in robot arm hinges occupy a subsegment once dominated by Japan's Harmonic Drive Systems. But China's Leaderdrive is catching up fast. Further turning up the heat is Japan's Nidec, the industrial motor giant that recently began making these gears.

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