North American based robotics companies saw orders jump 40 percent in units in the first half of 2010, according to new figures released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry's trade group. A total of 6,316 robots valued at $411.4 million were ordered by North American companies through June, a rise of 40 percent in units and 48 percent in dollars over the same period in 2009. When orders to companies outside of North America are included, the increases are even larger, up 54 percent in units and 62 percent in dollars.
"In North America, the biggest gains came in orders by non-automotive companies, where units rose 51 percent," says Jeffrey A. Burnstein, President of RIA. "This is a very positive sign for our industry as it continues to expand into a wide-range of industries such as semiconductor, electronics & photonics, food & beverage, plastics & rubber, consumer goods, and life sciences. Each of these market segments posted substantial gains in the first half of 2010, while automotive orders also grew 30 percent."
Burnstein noted that comparisons to 2009 look especially strong since last year's numbers were down significantly due to the recession. "We still have a long way to go before the industry is back to pre-recession sales levels, but I'm very encouraged that we're headed in the right direction."
Among leading robot applications, arc welding showed a 52 percent gain in units, followed very closely by material handling, up 51 percent. "Material handling continues to be the largest application area for robots, so this big jump in the first half of the year is excellent news," says Burnstein.
Burnstein also noted that material handling robot sales will likely get a further boost when RIA collocates its Automate 2011 trade show (formerly International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show), with ProMat, a leading trade show for the material handling and logistics industries sponsored by the Material Handling Industry of America. The events take place March 21-24, 2011 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
"There's growing interest in robotics from the warehousing & distribution industries, which are among the major audience segments at ProMat," Burnstein said. "There are mobile as well as stationary robot applications for these industries, and we're also seeing robot arms put on mobile bases. We see major growth opportunities here for our members."
RIA estimates that some 198,000 robots are now at work in U.S. factories, placing the United States second to Japan in overall robot use. More than one million robots are now being used worldwide.