Global sales of robots to reach new heights in 2011

During the Automate 2011 show, the IFR presented preliminary results of its annual statistics for industrial robots, including vision-guided robots. In 2010, with more than 115,000 industrial robots shipped, the number of units sold worldwide almost doubled from 2009.

During Automate 2011 in Chicago (March 21-24), the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) presented the preliminary results of its annual statistics for industrial robots, including vision-guided robots. In 2010, with more than 115,000 industrial robots shipped, the number of units sold worldwide almost doubled from 2009, the lowest year since the early 1990s.

Ake Lindqvist, IFR President, said, "The robotics industry benefits from the increasing demand for automation especially in the Asian markets, with China on top." In 2011 a further increase of robot sales of between 10% and 15% is expected. A new peak level of about 130,000 sold units could be reached. From 2012 to 2014 a more moderate annual growth in average of 5% is likely.

The possible impact of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan on the worldwide supply chain has not been taken into consideration in the forecast. "The whole world is concerned about the terrible catastrophe in Japan and the consequences which are still not fully apparent. On behalf of the IFR community, I would like to express my deepest sympathy to our Japanese colleagues. In these days our thoughts are with all the people in Japan. We wish the situation would improve and the country would recover from this disaster soon," stated Ake Lindqvist.

2010: The Comeback Year

Various regions experienced different rates of recovery in robot sales. Asia was on top with an increase of 127% to about 67,000 units, the second highest level ever recorded. About 17,000 units were sold in the Americas, 87% more than in 2009, reaching almost the level of 2008. About 30,000 units were sold in Europe, 45% more than in 2009. This is still about 15% lower than the peak levels of 2007 and 2008.

The most dynamic markets were China, the Republic of Korea, and the ASEAN countries. Sales in these markets almost tripled. In 2010, the Republic of Korea was on top with almost 23,000 robots sold. Japan recovered with a lower growth rate of 66%, to about 21,000 units. This is followed by North America, which recovered by 90% to about 16,000 units and China with almost 15,000 units sold (+170%). Germany ranked 5th with about 13,400 units sold (+57%).

The electronics industry, the automotive industry and the metal industry were the main drivers of the high increase of robot sales in 2010.

Asia driving further growth

Asian markets such as China, the Republic of Korea, and ASEAN countries will continue to be the drivers of the increase in robot sales. "The automotive industry will drive the automation level in China, while other industries like plastics, food, and electronics are following." forecasted Dr. Andreas Bauer, KUKA Roboter and Chairman of the IFR Industrial Robot Suppliers Group.

Robot sales to India are still at a low rate, but increasing. It is a promising market with great demand for industrial robots in a wide range of industries.

The recovery of robot installations will continue also in Europe and in the Americas. The automotive industry is continuing to implement new technologies and use new materials that will require new manufacturing lines. The application of robots in other industries--i.e., the food and beverage industry and the pharmaceutical industry--will further increase. The growing demand in alternative energy sources after the recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan will also push robot installations

Improvements in safety, flexibility, accuracy, and ease of use of robots will facilitate access to new markets. Robots will penetrate areas with a still low rate of automation. Small companies will start using robots in order to stay competitive.

More detailed information on the final results of robot sales in 2010 by country, by application and by industry, analyses on robot density, detailed forecasts, special features on robotics and case studies on innovative applications of industrial robots will be published in World Robotics 2011 Industrial Robots in summer 2011.

SOURCE: IFR Statistical Department

--Posted by Vision Systems Design

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