Lobsang's stairlifts are compact, safe, energy conserving and quiet. In the past, the market was dominated by large international businesses that produced products at high costs.
Upholding the concept “Taiwan Brand and Made in Taiwan”, Lobsang adopts ITRI’s optimized magnetic motor as its technical core and is able to automatically control slow start and slow deceleration. In fact, this technology has won the R&D 100 Awards, which further improves the inherent advantages of stairlifts. Moreover, its affordable price also makes it a new viable option for consumers, and it will further benefit the elderly and the disabled. In the future, this technology will encourage even more cross-sectoral cooperation and technology transfers, realizing both smart technology and green environmental protection.
No.8-3, Xi'an Road, Wuri District, Taichung (adjacent to Wuxi River, which divids Taichung, Changhua and Nantou), is an address that cannot be clearly positioned by Google Maps and is located between fields and scattered factories. There lies Lobsang’s Caffe & Bookstore, which launched at the start of August. With the objective of becoming independent bookstore that withstands the test of time, the bookstore offers drinks, books and creative gifts made by local cultural workers. It also serves as the flagship exhibition center for Lobsang’s stairlifts.
Therefore, in a warm summer afternoon, you can visit this tranquil resting place and experience the cultural-rich ambience, while also witnessing both the young and old, gathering around the stairlift in curiosity, indulging the stable ride that the stairlift offers.
Elegant Books and Joyful Life - Combining Two Dreams
Opening a bookstore before the age of 35 has always been Wang, Shi-xu (General Manager of Lobsang LLC.) dream. He acheived this feat at the age of 37 years old. However, his other goal is to present customers with high-quality and affordable MIT stairlifts, bringing convenience and joy to their daily life. Lobsang Coffe & Book Store fulfills both of his goals.
In the past, Lobsang acted as distributing agent for Stannah (A renowned English stairlift manufacturer) Stairlifts. However, due to the fluctuation of exchange rates, high wages, and the time-consuming process (1.5 month to 3 months time, from measuring the customer's home space specifications, to placing orders for customized rails, shipping via air or sea); costs would reach 900,000 NTD, an difficult financial purchase for average households.
Wang, Shi-xu recalled an elderly woman in Pingtung rejecting the idea of installing stairlifts when she heard that it would cost $900,000 NTD. She really needed a stairlift but could not afford it. When Wang, Shi-xu saw that there were many others like her, he made the decision of undertaking the responsibility of producing high-quality products that are affordable for everyone. Therefore, Lobsang transformed from a distributing agent to a manufacturer, gradually becoming a high-end Taiwanese brand.
The transformation was not easy. As Lobsang Group is also in the rainwater recycling and environmental engineering business, Wang, Shi-xu is relatively familiar with industrial production. However, when it comes to machinery, he is a layman with little experience. To start off, Lobsang purchased another machinery company through M&A, but due to huge differences in corporate culture, cooperation proved too difficult. When their cooperation eventually failed, Wang, Shi-xu had no choice but to put his dream on hold.
Later, during routine cross-industry exchange, Wang, Shi-xu made acquaintances with Peng Wenyang, the manager of the Industrial Technology Research Institute, and they began to cooperative research, as well as motor and speed reducer development. Later, Lobsang was included in the “Science and Technology Aesthetics Value Added Plan” initiated by the DOIT, Ministry of Economic Affairs, with the aim of achieving internal and external excellence for stairlifts.
Optimized Magnetic Motor – Achieving Internal and External Beauty
In the past, there very few options when it came to the appearance of stairlifts. The elderly preferred discreet and more traditional designs. As Taiwan’s population ages, the young have started taking care of their elderly family members while also preparing for retirement life. This has gradually changed the consumers expectations when it comes to stairlifts. Stairlifts are no longer considered as mere “service lifts” but are expected to be integrated into every life while functioning as an aesthetic furniture that displays personal taste.
As for the external beautiful, warm colors are adopted to lower users’ distrust of the machinery. However, adopting light and compact designs means limited space within the main framework, making the original motor and decelerator driving module incompatible. In terms of efficiency, the product needs to comply with the “Internal Beauty” principles of the Science and Technology Aesthetics Value Added Plan, while the driving module needed enhanced torque and efficiency.
Peng Wen-yang stated that, Taiwan was previously the Kingdom of Motors, but people regarded motors as an industry which required workers to get their hands dirty. When the traditional motor industry moved to the Chinese Mainland, Taiwan had to seek refined its technical development, which is why high-end products had to offer even higher value. As the electronics industry developed, the DC brushless motors gradually replaced the traditional AC induction motors over the course of a decade. As of energy conservation and carbon reduction policies were implemented in various countries, motors became smarter, more efficient and were capable of even higher performance. The high-efficiency DC brushless motor (so-called DC frequency-conversion motor) became the epitome of green household appliances.
In order to produce light, highly efficient and compact motors, manufacturers had to rely on the high-performance rare-earth magnets. Nevertheless, as the cost of rare-earth magnets becomes higher and higher, the motor industrial businesses are always seeking ways to reduce their dependency on rare-earth magnets. Thus, the Industrial Technology Research Institute has put great effort in the development of smart motors. The challenge that needs to be addressed was quite clear: It had to propose a method which reduces the use of rare-earth, without compromising motor performance. At the same time, the result had to be compact, highly efficient, and ideally solve cogging and harmonic wave issues, so as to be significantly lighter and more compact.
The technical innovation of ITRI ‘s motor optimization lies in the enhancement of motor magnetic fields, changing previously rotor flat surface into a comb-like structure, thereby reducing air gap magnetic leakage and improving efficiency. With this new structure, the feasibility of technology industrialization is significant. By slightly adjusting the existing silicon steel sheet stamping die, or using a soft magnetic composite material (SMC) mold, a comb-shaped surface structure can be produced. Furthermore, the torque of the switched reluctance motor has increased by more than 30%, which reduces vibration. Motor optimization using these important technological breakthroughs will achieve difficult feats such as being light weight, producing high torque, and wielding high efficiency.
Achieving the Best Possible Result - Development of the Taiwanese Market
In the early stages of the plan, there were no stairlift manufacturers that experience in implementing magnetic-optimized motors. “The engineering team doubted the possibility of achieving such a feat. Household stairlifts placed users’ safety as the highest priority. There was a lot of doubt on whether enough torque can be produced when the weight of the driving module was reduced by 50%. How can the module produce the same amount of torque? Would the module be strong enough? Would it generate risks?” stated Peng Wenyang. We had to start from a terminal product and work toward the required technology. All this required numerous engineering test, which is why our team member would work day and night to achieve the such a feat.
Fortunately, further more performance verification results indicated that the R&D Team were able to gradually solve relevant issues and address three major demands – a product that was compact, quiet and energy-saving. Despite the fierce competition from large corporations, Wang, Shi-xu had faith in the competitiveness Lobsang’s technology. In fact, Lobsang Stairlifts are equipped with a device that simultaneously retracts the seat and footrest and is able to reminder the user of the current status in five different languages (Chinese, English, Japanese, Taiwanese and Hakka). While in motion, the user can also to play his/her favorite music. As the world’s only stairlift with an LCD interface, Lobsang stairlifts are easy to operate. Factoring in the addition of the “R&D 100 Awards” award winning optimized magnetic motor, Lobsang’s stairlifts are not only save energy but also act as very helpful household appliance.
In terms of sales, 5 or 6 stairlifts have been sold on average in the past month. “It would be a great achievement if we can sell 10 a month!” Wang, Shi-xu smiled and said that, after upgrading its interior and exterior, the cost of Lobsang straight-track stair lift per floor is now 150,000-200,000 NTD while for curved-track stairlifts, its around 300,000 NTD per floor. Through special Mother's Day promotions, we achieved the best sales in 8 years (managing to move 50 products a month). It was a feat that exceeded the expectations of Lobsang and its competitors.
"Such sales performance has not only shocked various foreign brands and manufacturers, but also proved that our power in sales, technology and professional services have been praised and accepted by the market. I think that the demand is created and the market for stairlifts has great potential in Taiwan." Wang, Shi-xu estimates that, in the next five years, the market for stairlifts in Taiwan will expand even further. As estimated by competitors in the industry, the sales of stairlifts in Taiwan would achieve 800-1000. However, Wang, Shi-xu is optimistic and expects the number to double. With Lobsang continuously improving quality and efficiency, many foreign manufacturers have contacted us, asking about becoming Lobsang’s agent distributor. Lobsang is determined to lay a firm foundation in Taiwan and before expanding to markets overseas.
Data Source: Industrial Technology and Information Monthly (No.262 Issue in August 2013)