- April 24, 2015
By Bill Lydon, Editor
According to IFR, more than 220,000 robots were sold globally in 2014. The automotive industry is still the strongest, followed by the electronics industry. But there are many more applications in other industries that are just starting to grow, particularly with new small, safe, and collaborative robots.
By Bill Lydon, Editor
On March 23, 2015, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) held the 8th annual CEO Round Table at Automate 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Arturo Baroncelli, IFR President, presented that latest industry statistics. The IFR (www.ifr.org) provides robot industry information and statistics and has more than 50 members including robot suppliers, national robot associations, R&D institutes, and integrators.
More than 200,000 Robots Added
Baroncelli enthusiastically reviewed the latest IFR robot industry statistics noting, "Global demand of industrial robots went off in 2014 and reached for the first time more than 200,000 units." The automotive industry is still the strongest, followed by the electronics industry. But there are many more applications in other industries that are just starting to grow, particularly with new small, safe, and collaborative robots.
The IFR estimates about 225,000 units were sold in 2014 which is 27+% more than in 2013. This represents an accelerating trend. In 2013 growth was 12+% more than in 2012.
Worldwide supply of robots increased over 27% in 2014.
Asia was the leading purchaser of robots in 2014 with more than 60% of the 225,000 units supplied to that region. In total, about 140,000 units were sold in the whole region, the highest volume ever recorded. Robot sales to the Americas and to Europe also reached new peak levels.
Due to considerable investments of the automotive industry, South Korea was the second largest destination at about 39,000 units. It was followed by Japan, the United States and Germany. The five largest robot markets represent 75% of the total sales in 2014.
China was again by far the biggest destination of industrial robots in 2014. About 56,000 units were sold, 54% more than in 2013. China is gearing up to produce its own robots. Domestic Chinese robot suppliers delivered 16,000 (approximately 29% of units sold there). International robot suppliers delivered about 40,000 units in 2014 to Chinese manufacturers. Chinese manufactured robots account for just more than 7% of worldwide sales.
Thoughts & Observations
Robot applications have been traditionally in the automotive industry, but are growing in other industries based on a number of factors. The majority of robots over the years have been purchased by the automotive industry, followed by the electronics industry. The robot industry is poised for significant growth with diversification of existing products and new smaller robots.
In the recent economic downturn, robot manufacturers pursued other industries and developed products to meet unique needs. The development of food grade robots is a good example of diversification to meet required food industry certifications. Food grade robots must be impervious to rust and moisture and constructed not to contribute any contaminants to the production process. In addition, these robots must also withstand tough chemical cleanings and spray downs. Food robots have extremely high safety ratings such as IP65 and IP67.
The development of a new breed of light, inexpensive robots that can work cooperatively with people is poised to serve a wider range of applications. These robots are priced significantly less than $40,000, making them applicable for a very large number of applications. Collaborative robots provide a significant tool for implementing make-to-order manufacturing and achieving the objectives of Industry 4.0, a growing smart manufacturing initiative.
Asian countries, particularly China, are aggressively adopting robots and starting to produce their own. This shows an understanding of the value that automation brings to manufacturing in quality, repeatability, and speed.
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