Study: Industrial robot sales to increase 2% globally in 2013

Global sales of industrial robots will increase by about 2 percent in 2013 to 162,000 units, according to a study released today by the International Federation of Robotics. That would fall short of the record of 166,028 units set in 2011 but still represents the second highest total in history.

The study, “World Robotics 2013 – Industrial Robots,” provides an annual look at overall trends in industrial robots. It was released alongside “World Robotics 2013 – Service Robots,” which estimates that about 16,100 service robots for professional use were sold in 2012, or about 2 percent more than in 2011. The sales value of those robots, however, was down to $3.4 billion from close to $3.6 billion in the previous year’s report.

Both reports are available for purchase here.

Industrial Robots

The IFR Statistical Department expects robot sales to grow in North America, Brazil, South Korea, China, Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Turkey.

The group in particular singles out China as a booming market for industrial robots, with robot densities in its manufacturing industry still low compared to highly automated countries. It notes that between 2005 and 2012 sales of industrial robots have increased by about 25 percent on average per year and reached 23,000 units in 2012 — and even that isn’t the whole story:

This supply does not include sales of local Chinese robot manufacturers. At the joint event of the IFR and the Chinese Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA), the IFR-CRIA CEO Round Table at the CIROS trade show in July 2013 in Shanghai, it was reported that in 2011, local Chinese robot suppliers sold about 2,000 units and in 2012, 3,200 units.

The Taiwanese company Foxconn Electronics (enterprise Hon Hai Precision) is producing robots for their own use in their manufacturing plants in China. These robots are not counted in the statistics because the information on the installed number of the so called “Foxbot” robots installed in mainland China is rather vague. The numbers differ between total 10,000 and 30,000 units over the last years.

Taking into account the above mentioned information, the total number of robots installed in China in 2012 was between 28,000 and 35,000 units. Hence, China was already the largest robot market in 2012.

In contrast, the group says robot sales to Japan will decrease in 2013 due to the continuing “weak economic position of its electrical/electronics industry.” Economic woes will also cause robot sales to decrease or stagnate in Italy, France and Spain. Sales to Germany and the United Kingdom are expected to decrease after significant robot investments by the automotive industry during the past three years.

Going forward, the group expects industrial robot sales to increase by about 6 percent on average per year between 2014 and 2016, when the annual supply of industrial robots will reach more than 190,000 units.

“The growth is based on huge potentials of further penetration of the industrial segments like electronics or food and on the on-going industrialization of the emerging countries. But there are even additional growth potentials in the future based on breathtaking advanced and innovative technological developments,” Andreas Bauer, chairman of the IFR’s Industrial Robot Suppliers Group, said in a statement. “These technologies are opening doors to completely new applications for robots. Impressive for me are the developments regarding human-robot cooperation and opportunities that are provided in new fields for automation, especially in areas where no robots are currently used.”

Service Robots

Based on information provided by companies worldwide, “World Robotics 2013 – Service Robots” reports that 2012 sales of medical robots increased by 20 percent compared to 2011 to 1,308. That accounts for 8 percent of total unit sales of professional service robots; however, the total value of sales of medical robots increased 10 percent to nearly $1.5 billion, which is 44 percent of the total sales value of professional service robots.

About 6,200 service robots in defense applications accounted for almost 40 percent of the total number of service robots for professional use sold in 2012 — though sales were down 18 percent. Unmanned aerial vehicles did well with sales up 8 percent to almost 5,500 units, but that was offset by decreased sales of unmanned ground-based vehicles.

Sales of milking robots, which represent a sizable chunk of professional service robotics, decreased about 3 percent in 2012 to 4,750.

Almost 1,400 logistic systems were installed in 2012 with a sales value estimated at about $196 million.

Overall, from 2013 to 2016, the group forecasts sales of 94,800 units with an estimated value of $17.1 billion.

As for personal and domestic service robots, the group says there were about 3 million units sold in 2012. These include vacuum- and floor-cleaning robots, lawn-mowing robots, and entertainment and leisure robots, including toy robots, hobby systems, education and research. That breaks down into two million domestic robots sold for about $697 million and 1.1 million entertainment robots valued at $523 million.

For more information, visit the International Federation of Robotics website or download the reports.

[ image courtesy of Universal Robots ]