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Robot sales soar in 2010; peak levels expected for 2011: IFR


The robotics industry experienced a comeback in 2010, and robot sales are expected to reach a new peak level in 2011, according to the International Federation of Robotics’ (IFR) statistical department, which presented the preliminary results of the annual detailed statistics for industrial robots at Automate 2011 in Chicago last week.

According to IFR, more than 115,000 industrial robots shipped worldwide in 2010 – nearly double the number of units sold in 2009, the lowest year since the early 1990s.  

“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 between10 and 15 percent is expected. A new peak level of about 130,000 sold units could be reached, IFR predicts. Between 2012 and 2014, a moderate annual growth in average of five percent is more likely.  

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In 2010, various regions experienced different rates of recovery in robot sales. Asia was on top with an increase of 127 percent to about 67,000 units, the second highest level ever recorded. About 17,000 units were shipped to the Americas, 87 percent more than in 2009, reaching almost the level of 2008. About 30,000 units were sold in Europe, 45 percent more than in 2009. This is still about 15 percent 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 was on top with almost 23,000 robots sold. Japan recovered with a lower growth rate of 66 percent to about 21,000 units. This is followed by North America, which recovered by 90 percent to about 16,000 units, and China with almost 15,000 units sold (up 170 percent). Germany ranked fourth with about 13,400 units sold (up 57 percent).

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

Asian markets, such as China, the Republic of Korea and ASEAN countries, will continue to be the driver of the increase in robot sales, according to IFR. However, the possible impact of the recent tsunami in Japan on the worldwide supply chain has not been taken into consideration in preparing the forecasts.

“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 Lindqvist.

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, IFR said.  

The recovery of robot installations will continue in Europe and 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 (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 (e.g. the production of solar cells etc.), according to IFR. Improvements in safety, flexibility, accuracy and ease of use of robots will facilitate access to new markets.

More detailed information on the final results of robot sales in 2010 by country, application and 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 this summer.

www.worldrobotics.org
www.ifr.org