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Robot sales to grow 6 per cent year on year from 2014 to 2016, according to IFR

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Worldwide robot sales will reach more than 190,000 units in 2016, according to a new report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The study, ‘World Robotics 2013 – Industrial Robots’, predicts an increase in sales of 6 per cent on average per year between 2014 and 2016. This year, global robot sales are expected to increase by 2 per cent to 162,000 units.

Dr Andreas Bauer, chairman of the IFR Industrial Robot Suppliers Group, said: ‘The growth is based on huge potentials of further penetration of the industrial segments like electronics or food and on the on-going industrialisation of the emerging countries.’

He also picked out developments regarding human-robot cooperation as an area where big advances are being made, and said there were opportunities in new fields for automation where no robots are currently used.

The IFR suggests that robot demand from the automotive industry will start to slow down in 2013. However, the electronics industry will increase robot investments in production automation as well as in retooling for new production processes. The pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and metal and machinery industries will also increase their use of robotics.

Growth of robot sales is expected in North America, Brazil, the Republic of Korea, China, in most of all other South East Asian markets, as well as in most of the Central and Eastern European markets, and in Turkey.

However, robot sales to Japan will decrease due to the continuing weak economic position of its electronics industry, according to the IFR. Sales in Germany are also expected to decrease after the significant robot investments of the automotive industry over the past three years. The UK is likely to see a reduction in robot installations in 2013, while in Italy, France and Spain robot sales will either decrease or stagnate. However, the IFR says, due to the more complex robot systems entering the market, the increase in turnover might be higher, just as in 2011 and 2012.

The IFR also brings attention to the booming robotics market in China, where, between 2005 and 2012, sales of industrial robots have increased by 25 per cent on average per year, reaching 23,000 units in 2012.

Machine vision exports from Germany to Asia exceeded those to the rest of Europe in 2012, according to the latest market study from the VDMA, further evidence of the growth in automation in Asia.

IFR’s statistics don’t include sales of local Chinese robot manufacturers. Taking these into account, IFR estimates the total number of robots installed in China in 2012 was between 28,000 and 35,000 units, making China the largest robot market in 2012.

The potential for automation in the Chinese manufacturing industry is still huge. Compared to highly automated countries like Japan, Korea and Germany, where robot densities in manufacturing can be between 270 and 400 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, the robot density in China is comparably low at about 20 robots. To reach comparable levels of robot density as Japan, Korea and Germany, about one million new robots would have to be installed in the coming years in China, according to the IFR.

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