North American-based robotics companies saw orders jump 40 per cent in units in the first half of 2010, according to new figures released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.
A total of 6,316 robots valued at $411.4 million were ordered by N.A. companies through June, a rise of 40 per cent in units and 48 per cent in dollars over the same period in 2009. When orders to companies outside of North America are included, the increases are even larger, up 54 per cent in units and 62 per cent in dollars.
"In North America, the biggest gains came in orders by non-automotive companies, where units rose 51 per cent," says Jeffrey A. Burnstein, president of RIA. "This is a very positive sign for our industry as it continues to expand into a wide-range of industries such as semiconductor, electronics photonics, food beverage, plastics rubber, consumer goods, and life sciences.
"Each of these market segments posted substantial gains in the first half of 2010, while automotive orders also grew 30 per cent."
Burnstein noted that comparisons to 2009 look especially strong since last year’s numbers were down significantly due to the recession. "We still have a long way to go before the industry is back to pre-recession sales levels, but I’m very encouraged that we’re headed in the right direction," he said. Among leading robot applications, arc welding showed a 52 per cent gain in units, followed very closely by material handling, up 51 per cent.
"Material handling continues to be the largest application area for robots, so this big jump in the first half of the year is excellent news," said Burnstein.
Burnstein also noted that material handling robot sales will likely get a further boost when RIA co-locates its Automate 2011 trade show (formerly International Robots, Vision Motion Control Show), with ProMat, a leading trade show for the material handling and logistics industries sponsored by the Material Handling Industry of America. The co-located events take place March 21-24, 2011 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
"There’s growing interest in robotics from the warehousing distribution industries, which are among the major audience segments at ProMat," Burnstein said. "There are mobile as well as stationary robot applications for these industries, and we’re also seeing robot arms put on mobile bases. We see major growth opportunities here for our members which makes this collocation very exciting."
RIA estimates that some 198,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, placing the U.S. second to Japan in overall robot use. More than one million robots are now being used worldwide. Founded in 1974, RIA currently represents some 225 robotics manufacturers, system integrators, component suppliers, end users, consulting groups, and research organizations. In addition to its biennial trade show and conference Automate, RIA is best-known for developing the ANSI/RIA National Robot Safety Standard, the annual Robotics Industry Forum (next event slated for January 19-21, 2011 in Orlando, Florida), and Robotics Online, the world’s leading site for robotics information.