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The North American robotics market has been on a roll and the first three months of 2016 saw the continuation of that growth. North American companies ordered 7,406 robots in the first quarter of 2016, a new record among opening quarters, growing seven per cent over the same period in 2015 according to figures from the Robotic Industries Association.

Order revenue, however, decreased by eight per cent in the first quarter. Robot shipments also set a new opening quarter record, with 7,125 robots valued at US $448 million being shipped to North American customers. This represents growth of two per cent in units and 21 per cent in dollars over the same quarter of last year.

“It is encouraging to see so many new companies adopting robotics for use in their operations,” says Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA. “Companies of all sizes are realizing that robots are more affordable than ever before and can help them increase their productivity to remain competitive in today’s global economy.”

Growth in non-automotive industries soared in the first quarter of 2016. Robots ordered by the semiconductor and electronics (90 per cent), food and consumer goods (82 per cent), and plastics and rubber (44 per cent) industries all experienced sizable increases over the same period in 2015. While it is still the largest industry in terms of volume for robotics, orders to the automotive industry grew only one per cent in the first quarter of 2016. In terms of applications, the biggest increases were realized in spot welding (31 per cent), assembly (15 per cent), and material handling (six per cent).

“As the technology behind robots is evolving, the number of tasks they are able to perform is increasing,” says Burnstein. “Today more than ever, robots can handle complex tasks at fast speeds, leading to high productivity for customers. Disruptive innovations like collaborative robots are helping to drive adoption of robotics in new and exciting ways, and that is promising for the future of our industry.”

RIA estimates that some 262,000 robots are now at use in North American factories, which is third to Japan and China in robot use.

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