North American robotics market upswing continues in 1st half of 2005

By Control Engineering Staff August 25, 2005

Makers of industrial robot products in North American have fresh news to cheer about. New statistics released by the industry’s trade group, Robotic Industries Association (RIA), show that 10,712 robots valued at $638.9 million were ordered by North American companies through June. This 36% leap in orders for the 1st half of 2005 puts the industry on pace for a record year, according to RIA. Orders from outside North America (669 robots valued at $34.2 million) raised overall sales for North American robot suppliers to 11,381 robots worth $673.1 million. Moreover, 2Q05 was reportedly the robotic “industry’s best ever” quarter.

New orders and shipments of industrial robots made significant advances in 1st half 2005, compared to the same period in 2004, as these unit figures from RIA’s report show. Growth in robot market value showed similar results.

That record April through June quarter came on North American manufacturing company orders of 5,396 robots valued at $336.3 million. Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA verifies that second-quarter 2005 robot orders were higher than in any previous quarter since RIA began tracking the industry in 1983 on a quarterly basis.

The top three application areas behind the surge of new orders were material handling, for robots having greater than 10 lb capacity (35% of units); spot welding (23%); and arc welding (19%)—comprising 77% of all units. Orders in the automotive and metalworking industries were especially strong. For robot units shipped, top applications were the same and closely tracked order percentages.

RIA tracks only manufacturing applications, however, Vincent explains that robotics technology is expanding outside of the factory as well. “From outer space to hospital rooms to living rooms, robots are playing a larger role than ever, and we expect to see this trend continue,” he notes. Vincent sees a further boost coming to the robotics industry from the upcoming International Robots & Vision Show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL (Sept. 27-29, 2005).

RIA estimates that more than 150,000 robots are at work in U.S. factories, currently placing this country second only to Japan in global robot use. For more detail on the report, “The Robotics Market, First Half 2005,” visit Robotic Industries Association’s Web site .

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