North American robotics market records strongest opening quarter ever

Growth in non-automotive industries soars, robot sales for materials handling applications up 6%.

Growth in non-automotive industries soars, robot sales for materials handling applications up 6%.

The North American robotics market has set new records to begin 2016, according to Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 7,406 robots valued at approximately $402 million were ordered from North American companies during the first quarter of 2016. The number of units ordered in the first three months of 2016 is a new record among opening quarters, growing 7% over the same period in 2015. Order revenue, however, decreased by 8% in the first quarter.

Robot shipments also set a new opening quarter record, with 7,125 robots valued at $448 million being shipped to North American customers. This represents growth of 2% in units and 21% in dollars over the same quarter of last year.

“It is encouraging to see so many new companies adopting robotics for use in their operations,” said Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA. “Companies of all sizes are realizing that robots are more affordable than ever before and can help them increase their productivity to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

Growth in non-automotive industries soared in the first quarter of 2016. Robots ordered by the semiconductor and electronics (90%), food and consumer goods (82%), and plastics and rubber (44%) industries all experienced sizable increases over the same period in 2015. While it is still the largest industry in terms of volume for robotics, orders to the automotive industry grew only 1% in the first quarter of 2016. In terms of applications, the biggest increases were realized in spot welding (31%), assembly (15%), and material handling (6%).

“As the technology behind robots is evolving, the number of tasks they are able to perform is increasing,” Burnstein said. “Today more than ever, robots can handle complex tasks at fast speeds, leading to high productivity for customers. Disruptive innovations like collaborative robots are helping to drive adoption of robotics in new and exciting ways, and that is promising for the future of our industry.”

Burnstein noted that the RIA and its sister group AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, are seeing the impacts of the growth in demand for robotics and related automation in upcoming events like the International Collaborative Robots Workshop and The Vision Show, slated for May 3-5, 2016 in Boston.

“Collaborative robots are the hottest topic in robotics today, and we will have a record turnout in Boston for the workshop,” he said. “The Vision Show is also expected to have record attendance this year,” Burnstein added. Registration and free show passes are available now, visit Robotics Online and Vision Online respectively for more information on these two collocated events.

RIA estimates that some 262,000 robots are now at use in North American factories, which is third to Japan and China in robot use.

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