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Industrial robot sales soared globally by 12% during 2013

11 June, 2014

Global sales of industrial robots hit a new record of 179,000 last year ­– a 12% increase on 2012 – according to figures released by the International Federation of Robotics. Announcing the figures at the recent Automatica show in Germany, IFR president Arturo Baroncelli reported, moreover, that orders in the first four months of 2014 had “increased remarkably” and the IFR expects 2014 sales to continue growing at a similar pace to 2013.

More than half of the robots sold last year were for use in the Asia-Pacific region, where sales were 18% up on those for 2012. These sales were being driven largely by China which is not only is the world’s biggest robot market, but is also its fastest-growing.

Every fifth industrial robot sold in the world last year was installed in China, where sales totalled almost 37,000 machines. About 9,000 of these were supplied by domestic Chinese robot-makers­ – almost three times more than in 2012. But non-Chinese robot suppliers also increased their sales in China by 20%. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of industrial robots sold in China grew by an average of about 36% every year.

Japan, for many years the largest robot-buying nation, is now in second place but still has, by far, the largest number of installed industrial robots – more than 300,000. It is also the leading robot manufacturer, accounting for more than half of the global robot supply of 2013. Domestic sales of industrial robots in Japan fell by 9% to about 26,000 in 2013, but its exports increased.

The European market grew by 5% last year to more than 43,000 robots, almost equalling the all-time-high achieved in 2011. In Germany, robot sales were 4% higher in 2013 than in 2012, exceeding 18,000. The automotive industry was again the main driver for the growth.

In the US, robot installations grew by 6% in 2013 to reach almost 24,000. Between 2008 and 2013, annual sales of robots in the US grew by an average of 12% per year.

In terms of applications, the global automotive industry remains the pace-setter. Between 2010 and 2013, it increased its investment in robots by an average of 22% each year. But in 2013, robot sales to the sector rose by just 5%, while those to the metal and machinery industry were up by 17%. The world’s food and pharmaceuticals industries increased their robot investments substantially in 2013.

Global sales of industrial robots could hit 200,000 this year
Source: IFR statistical department

According to the IFR, the main factors driving the growth in the use of robotics and automation include:

•  new materials, such as carbon composites, that need new approaches to production;

•  increased international competition that is driving the need for higher productivity and quality;

•  growing consumer markets that demand larger production capacities;

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