Hot market for North American robotics

Good news for manufacturing comes from the Robotic Industries Association’s (RIA) recent market report, which includes among its findings a 12% jump in new orders in the first half of 2004 for robots produced and sold in North America.


Good news for manufacturing comes from the Robotic Industries Association ’s (RIA) recent market report, which includes among its findings a 12% jump in new orders in the first half of 2004 for robots produced and sold in North America. RIA’s new figures show increases in both units (see graphic) and in market value of robots through June 2004.

Of total new orders shown, sales to North American companies in the first six months of 2004 comprise 7,852 robot units valued at $473.3 million. Total units include 687 additional robots valued at $39.7 million, sold outside of North America.

Combined sales by North American robot suppliers in and outside of North America amounted to an 18% gain in units (see graphic) and a 10% rise in market value to $512.9 million, according to RIA’s report, The Robotics Market, First Half 2004 Results and Trends . Robots produced here but sold outside of North America represent particularly large (triple digit) gains over the same period in 2003—albeit for much smaller number of units than for domestic sales. Shipments of robots were also positive, with a 4% gain in units (graphic) and 8% rise in value to $473.7 million, over the comparable 2003 period.

Another good market indicator was that most of the gains came from non-automotive industries such as semiconductors/electronics, plastics and rubber, food and consumer goods, metals, and more, notes Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA. "Auto companies and their suppliers remain the largest market for robot manufacturers, accounting for about 65% of the sales in North America. However, this is down from about 75% a year ago," he says.

As for the breakdown of new orders and shipments by robot applications, the top three categories went to spot welding, material handling (>10 lb), and arc welding. New orders represented 29%, 26% and 16% of units, respectively, for these applications, while shipments for the same applications came in at 26%, 23%, and 18% of units sold.

RIA collects and reports quarterly statistics on totals provided by its member companies, which it claims represent more than 90% of the North American robotics market. By RIA’s estimates, about 140,000 industrial robots are currently at work in the U.S.

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering,

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