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HQ 965638

JULY 16, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 965638 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8428.90.00, 8515.21.00, 8515.31.00

Mr. Paul S. Anderson
Sonnenberg & Anderson
333 West Wacker Dr., Suite 2070
Chicago, IL 60606

RE: Industrial Robots With Stand-Alone Controller but Without End-of-Arm Tooling; HQ 963029 Revoked

Dear Mr. Anderson:

In HQ 963029, issued to you on July 7, 2000, on behalf of Motoman, Inc., program controllers designated MRC, MRC II or XRC, and a programming or teaching pendant, were held to be a functional unit classifiable in a provision of heading 8537, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). The SK and SV series electrically controlled industrial robots, each consisting of an articulated arm or manipulator on a base, but without appropriate end-of-arm tooling, were held to be separately classifiable in heading 8479, HTSUS.

Pursuant to section 625(c), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), notice of the proposed revocation of HQ 963029 was published on June 5, 2002, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 36, Number 23. Four (4) comments were received in response to that notice. All favored Customs proposal. These comments are substantially in accordance with the discussion in this ruling under LAW AND ANALYSIS.


The articles at issue are the SK and SV series electrically controlled industrial robots. Each consists of an articulated arm or manipulator on a base, a controller designated MRC, MRC II or XRC, and a programming or teaching pendant. Prior to importation, each robot is “configured,” that is, a program of
instructions to implement the robot’s intended end use service application is burned onto a chip that becomes a permanent part of the controller, which is stand-alone and connected to the manipulator by electrical wiring or cables. The programming pendant is hand-held and attaches by cable to the controller. It functions as an input device that sends operating instructions in the form of signals which the controller interprets and uses to instruct the manipulator.

Although each robot series is best suited, in terms of size, payload capacity and power, for certain applications, the vast majority in this case are specified as being for arc welding, resistance welding, or for material handling. As imported, the robots lack welding guns, grippers or other end-of-arm tooling.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8428 Other lifting, handling, loading or unloading machinery:

Other machinery

8479 Machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in [chapter 85]:

8479.50.00 Industrial robots, not elsewhere specified or included

8515 Electricsoldering, welding or brazing machines and apparatus:

Machines and apparatus for resistance welding of metal:

8515.21.00 Fully or partly automatic
other basesfor electric control or the distribution of electricity:

For a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V:

8537.10.90 Other


Whether an articulated arm/manipulator, process controller and programming pendant imported together, but without end-of-arm tooling, constitutes a functional unit, imported incomplete or unfinished.


Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6. GRI 2(a), HTSUS, extends the terms of a heading to include goods imported incomplete or unfinished provided that, as imported, the incomplete or unfinished article imparts the essential character to the complete or finished good.

Section XVI, Note 4, HTSUS, covers machines consisting of individual components (whether separate or interconnected by piping, by transmission devices, by electric cables or by other devices) intended to contribute together to a clearly defined function covered by one of the headings in chapters 84 or 85. The whole, in such cases, is classified in the heading appropriate to that function.

In the ruling request that resulted in HQ 963029, you contended that each model in the industrial robot series, with its process controller and programming pendant, constituted an incomplete or unfinished article under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 2(a), HTSUS, having the essential character, in this case, of material handling machinery of heading 8428, HTSUS, or of a welding machine of heading 8515, HTSUS. We rejected that contention on the basis that “the classification of goods or apparatus as an incomplete or unfinished functional unit is not supported by any HTSUS legal note [or by the ENs].” We have undertaken a thorough review of the matter and now conclude that this position is incorrect and no longer represents Customs position on this issue.

By its terms, GRI 2(a), HTSUS, extends the scope of a 4-digit heading to include an article, whether assembled or unassembled, that is imported incomplete or unfinished. The imported article, however, must be found to have the essential character of the complete or unfinished good. Section XVI, Note 4, HTSUS, is the authority under GRI 1 for classifying a series of machines or components in a 4-digit heading describing a clearly defined function performed by the goods. Given the relationship between GRI 1 and GRI 2(a) in determining the scope of headings, it
logically follows, in our opinion, that GRI 2(a) may also be applied to determine whether under GRI 1 a series of machines or components may qualify for classification under Section XVI, Note 4, even if imported incomplete or unfinished.

Under GRI 2(a), the factor or factors which determine essential character will vary with the goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of a component or components, their bulk, quantity, weight or value, or the role of a component or components in relation to the use of the good. It is the latter factor that is the most compelling in this case. The facts here establish that each articulated arm or manipulator is permanently configured for a particular service application by an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) chip installed in the controller. In addition, it is indicated that the manipulator dedicated for material handling has a particular load rating that is suitable only for that service application. Further, the end-of-arm tooling represents a rather small percentage of the total value of the completed robot. Under the particular facts presented, we conclude that an importation consisting of an articulated arm or manipulator and process controller with programming pendant, represents the aggregate of distinctive component parts that establish the identity of the good as material handling machinery of heading 8428 or as electric welding machines or apparatus of heading 8515, as appropriate.


Under the authority of GRI 2(a) and Section XVI, Note 4, HTSUS, an articulated arm or manipulator imported with its configured process controller and programming pendant, constitute a functional unit provided for in headings 8428 and 8515. Actual classification is in subheading 8428.90.00, HTSUS, and in subheadings 8515.21.00 and 8515.31.00, HTSUS, as appropriate.


HQ 963029, dated July 7, 2000, is revoked. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


Myles B. Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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