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The North American robotics market has recorded its strongest year ever in 2012, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

A total of 22,598 robots valued at $1.48 billion US were sold to companies in North America in 2012, beating the previous record of 19,337 robots sold in 2011. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 25,557 robots valued at $1.66 billion. Compared to 2011, North American orders were up 17 per cent in units and 27 per cent in dollars.

“The Automotive industry has continued to be the strongest driver of the North American robotics market,” says Alex Shikany, director of market analysis for RIA. “Robots sold to automotive OEMs in North America jumped 47 per cent over a then record-setting 2011, while robots sold to automotive component suppliers increased 21 per cent,” he notes.

Sales were also up in metalworking industries (+12 per cent) and life sciences/pharmaceuticals (+3 per cent). In terms of applications, increases were seen in assembly (+40 per cent), spot welding (+37 per cent), arc welding (+24 per cent), coating & dispensing (+13 per cent), and material handling (+3 per cent).

The fourth quarter of 2012 was the strongest quarter ever recorded by RIA (the association began reporting data in 1984) in terms of units ordered, with 6,235 robots sold to North American companies. The fourth quarter was up nine per cent in units and 21 per cent in dollars over the same period in 2011.

“It is promising to see such positive growth in robotics despite the tumultuous manufacturing environment throughout 2012” says Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA. “This growth is an indication that more North American companies are looking to automate in order to reduce costs and increase productivity, and that is a good sign for robotics.”

RIA estimates that some 225,000 robots are now at use in US factories, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use. “Many observers believe that only about 10 per cent of the US companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” notes Burnstein, “and among those that have the most to gain from robots are small and medium sized companies.”

What will 2013 hold? Burnstein says RIA does not make robotics sales forecasts but he believes that if the economy remains strong we should be looking at another good year for the robotics industry.

“The increased demand for robotics was evident at this year’s Automate show in Chicago, which had record setting attendance levels. It is clear that people are excited about automation and the benefits it provides.

RIA

 

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