North American robotics companies sold more industrial robots in the second quarter of 2012 than any previous quarter in history, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry's trade group. A total of 5,556 robots valued at $403.1 million were sold to North American companies, a jump of 14% in units and 28% in dollars over the same quarter in 2011. Orders in the first half of 2012 totaled 10,652 robots valued at $747 million, increases of 20% in units and 29% in dollars over the same period last year.
"Obviously, we're thrilled about the great results so far this year," said Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA. "The strong sales reflect increased demand for robotics in industries such as automotive, plastics & rubber, and metals. However, as the economy slows, it's not clear that these numbers will remain as strong heading forward."
Orders for spot welding robots, used primarily in automotive solutions, jumped 68% in the first half of 2012. Other big jumps were seen in coating & dispensing (+42%), arc welding (+20%), and assembly (+19%). Material removal orders, a smaller application area, rose 364 percent.
Automotive related orders accounted for 65% of units and 64% of dollars in the first half of 2012. This represents sharp gains of 44% in units and 56% in dollars over the opening half of 2011.
"It's great that the auto related numbers continue to post huge gains, but as we know, automotive industry purchases are cyclical," Burnstein explained. "However, we were disappointed to see non-automotive related orders fall eight percent in units and one percent in dollars in the first half of the year, with even sharper declines in the second quarter alone."
RIA estimates that some 220,000 robots are now used in the United States, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use.