More than 115,000 industrial robots shipped during 2010, almost double the number of units sold worldwide in 2009, which was the lowest year since the early ’90s, according to a statement from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
“The prospects for 2011 and beyond are promising,” commented Åke Lindqvist, IFR president. “The robotics industry benefits from the increasing demand for automation especially in the Asian growing markets with China on top.” In 2011 a further increase of robot sales between 10% and 15% is forecast, resulting in a new peak level of about 130,000 sold units. Between 2012 and 2014 a moderate annual growth in average of 5% is more likely, although the figures do not take into account recent tragic events in Japan.
2010 – The year of the comeback: Various regions experienced different rates of recovery in robot sales. Asia ranked first, with an increase of 127% to about 67,000 units, the second highest level ever recorded. About 17,000 units were shipped to 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 to these markets almost tripled. In 2010, the Republic of Korea topped the list, 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.
Further growth will mainly come from Asia: Asian markets such as China, the Rep. of Korea, and the ASEAN countries will continue to drive sales of industrial robots. “Automotive industry will drive the Automation level in China, other industries like plastics, food, electronics are following.” forecasted Dr. Andreas Bauer, of KUKA Robotics who is also chairman of the IFR Industrial Robot Suppliers Group. Robot sales to India remain relatively small, but are increasing, making it a promising market with great demand for industrial robots in a wide range of industries.
Further growth of robot installations in Americas and Europe: 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 which will require new manufacturing lines. The application of robots in other industries, such as the food and beverage industry and the pharmaceutical industry will continue to increase. The growing demand in alternative energy sources after the recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan will also encourage robot sales in areas such as the production of solar cells. Meanwhile, 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.