New orders for industrial robots jumped 28 percent though September 2003, according to new figures released by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
North American robotics suppliers received orders for 10,051 robots valued at U.S. $698.2 million from North American manufacturing companies in the first 9 months of the year. An additional 331 robots valued at $29.3 million were ordered by companies outside of North America. The combined total of 10,382 robots valued at $727.5 million represents an increase of 28 percent in units and 15 percent in U.S. dollars over the same period in 2002.
"It appears that manufacturing companies that have been postponing major purchases of capital equipment are starting to make new investments," said Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA.
"However, it is clear that there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery," he added. "Another downtown could put the brakes on the recovery in capital equipment spending, which could lengthen the time it takes for the robotics industry to surpass the record sales it posted in peak years in 1999 and 2000."
While automotive manufacturers and suppliers remain the largest customers for the robotics industry, markets such as fabricated metals, food and consumer goods, semiconductors and electronics, and plastics and rubber continue to show strength, RIA said.
According to the trade group's figures, material handling continues to be the largest application area for robots, followed by spot welding, arc welding, coating and dispensing, assembly, and material removal.
RIA estimates that approximately 132,000 robots are currently installed in U.S. factories, placing the U.S. second to Japan in robotics use.
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