After the disruptions of trade conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing supply chain and workforce challenges, sales of industrial robots made a strong recovery in 2021, reported the International Federation of Robotics. A new record of 486,800 units were shipped globally—an increase of 27% compared with the previous year. The Americas increased by 27%, with 49,400 units sold.
Asia and Australia saw the largest growth in demand: Installations were up 33%, reaching 354,500 units. Europe saw double digit growth of 15%, with 78,000 units installed, according to the International Federation of Robotics' (IFR) preliminary results for 2021.
“Robot installations around the world recovered strongly and make 2021 the most successful year ever for the robotics industry,” stated Milton Guerry, president of the IFR. “Due to the ongoing trend towards automation and continued technological innovation, demand reached high levels across industries. In 2021, even the pre-pandemic record of 422,000 installations per year in 2018 was exceeded.”
Demand is strong across industries
In 2021, the main growth driver was the electronics industry, with 132,000 installations, an increase of 21%, said the IFR last week. It had already surpassed the automotive industry—with 109,000 installations, an increase of 37%— as the largest customer of industrial robots in 2020.
Metal and machinery followed, with 57,000 installations, +38%. It was ahead of plastics and chemical products, which had 22,500 installations, a 21% increase, and food and beverages, at 15,300 installations, growth of 24%.
The Americas and Europe recover
In the Americas, the number of industrial robot installations reached the second-best result ever, only surpassed by the record 55,200 installations of 2018. The largest American market, the U.S., shipped 33,800 units, representing a market share of 68%.
In 2021, industrial robot installations in Europe recovered after two years of decline, exceeding the peak of 75,600 units in 2018. Demand from the largest adopter, the automotive industry, stayed high and stable at 19,300 installations.
Demand from metal and machinery rose strongly to 15,500 installations, an increase of 50%, followed by plastics and chemical products, with 7,700 installations, or a gain of 30%.
Industrial robots reached 78,000 installations in 2021. Source: IFR
Asia remains world’s biggest market
Asia remains the world’s largest industrial robot market, with 73% of all newly deployed robots in 2021. A total of 354,500 units were shipped in 2021, up 33% compared with 2020.
The electronics industry adopted by far the most units, with 123,800 installations, up 22%. This was followed by strong demand from the automotive industry at 72,600 installations, a 57% increase, and the metal and machinery industry, with 36,400 installations, growing 29%.
At the Automatica 2022 trade fair in Munich last week, robotics industry leaders discussed how robotics and automation enable environmentally sustainable strategies. The IFR will soon provide a video summary, with statements of executives from ABB, Mercedes Benz, Stäubli, the VDMA, and the European Commission on its YouTube channel.
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