North American manufacturing companies ordered 19 percent more robots from North American robotics suppliers in 2003 than in 2002, continuing evidence of the upturn in the robotics market, according to new figures released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry trade group.
A total of 12,367 robots valued at U.S. $876.5 million were ordered, the industry’s best mark since the year 2000. When sales to companies outside North America are added in, the total for North American robotics suppliers is 12,881 robots valued at $913 million.
‘‘It’s encouraging to see the robotics industry approaching the figures we hit prior to the double whammy of the economic slowdown of 2001-2002 and the impact of 9/11,’‘ said Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA, in a written statement.
While Mr. Vincent is optimistic about 2004, he noted that there may be bumps along the road to surpassing the industry records set in 1999 and 2000.
‘‘Robotics use is definitely on an upswing, and I expect this to continue throughout this decade and well beyond since we’ve only scraped the surface of potential robot applications,’‘ Mr. Vincent said. ‘‘However, as we’ve learned by watching many other industries that like robotics are dependent upon capital equipment spending, there are up cycles and down cycles."
RIA recently started tracking orders by end user industry. The full-year 2003 figures show that 68 percent of the North American robot orders went to automotive related applications, while 32 percent went to non-automotive markets such as food and consumer goods, plastics and rubber, life sciences, and electronics.
Material handling remained the largest application area for robots ordered in 2003, followed by spot welding, arc welding, coating/dispensing, assembly, material removal, and inspection.
RIA estimates that some 135,000 robots are now being used in U.S. factories, placing the United States second to Japan in robotics use.
Mr. Vincent said that he expects continued growth in emerging robot markets such as lab automation and medicine as well as in traditional factory automation applications.
‘‘More and more manufacturing companies in just about every industry are seeking ways to produce better products more rapidly and at a lower cost. At the same time, we see tremendous interest in applications where robots are relatively new, such as for helping pharmaceutical companies rapidly develop new drugs or helping doctors perform complicated surgical procedures,’‘ Mr. Vincent explained.
Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 230 robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, consultants, research groups, and educational institutions.
RIA collects and reports statistics each quarter based on actual totals provided by member companies, which RIA estimates represents more than 90 percent of the North American robotics market.
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