The world market for industrial robots in the automotive and heavy industry sectors ( 80kg to 300+kg payloads) is slowing remarkably, with little upward growth seen between 2013 and 2016, reports IMS Research.
However, lower payload applications in the food, beverage, personal care and consumer electronics industries, by contrast, are forecast to be the two fastest growing sectors for industrial robots through 2016–growing at an average annual rate of 8.6 percent and 8.0 percent respectively.
To-date, large-payload industrial robots have typically been used for heavy applications such as welding, palletizing and heavy assembly. However, in recent years significant advances in machine vision, sensing and gripping, have enabled robots to start being used in new industrial applications and unfamiliar sectors.
This trend is forecast to continue and intensify.
The world market for industrial robots was worth an estimated $8.2 billion in 2011. Around 68 percent of revenues were for articulated, and two-thirds were for robots designed for use in applications requiring a payload of above 15kg.
Kiran Patel, analyst at IMS Research explains, “The consumer electronics industry is characterized by many labor-intensive assembly processes. Traditionally, work has been carried out by hand in regions of low-cost labor, such as China.
“In recent years, wages have been rising per year in terms of U.S. dollars (around 14 percent according to Chinese government statistics); also young people are more likely to further their education rather than pursue industrial apprenticeships. Consequently, labor has become more scarce and expensive.”
Patel further notes that, “The interest in industrial robots has increased in labor-intensive industries as companies look to automate and cut costs. Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn has announced plans to deploy one million industrial robots in its plants in 2-3 years.”
Foxconn deployed the first 10,000 robots late in 2012.
In the food and beverage industry, greater purchase of robots has more to do with the fact that it is an industry that fluctuates less with changes in general economic activity.
With economic uncertainty continuing in the Eurozone, manufacturers of industrial robots do not want all their revenues to come from the automotive industry (which is one of the most sensitive to the rise and fall of the general economy). Manufacturers of robots have reacted by offering robots with a high protection class, making them applicable to food and beverage production.
IMS Research predicts that from 2011 to 2016, revenues from articulated robots with a payload of below 15kg will grow on average by 6 percent a year. Investment in automating production of food & beverages and of consumer electronics will be the main contributors to this growth.