Demand rockets for manufacturing robots

Industrial robots are helping to improve productivity as well as meeting increasing need for complexity, says new IFR report

Robot sales for business have more than doubled in the last five years (114%), with growth in 2017 peaking at 30%, says the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). 

And with expected improvements in robots, there is ‘tremendous’ potential for robot installations in all surveyed countries, even where there are already high numbers. “Robots evolve with many cutting-edge technologies,” says IFR president Junji Tsuda. “They have vision recognition, skill learning, failure prediction utilising AI, new concepts of man-machine collaboration plus easy programming.”

In South Korea, there are more than seven robots per 100 employees – eight times higher than the global average, making it the country with the highest robot density despite installations slowing in 2017. Density tends to follow the electronics industry, the IFR notes. Regionally, Europe can claim the highest density, with more than one robot per 100 employees, and Germany leading their use.

China and Japan remain the biggest market for industrial robots, with China increasing its market share to 36% in 2017 (138,000 units), buying more than Europe and the Americas combined (112,400).

Japan, the largest robot manufacturer, now delivering 56% globally, increased domestic and export sales, targeting North America, China, South Korea and Europe.

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Use of robots in the metal and machinery sector grew by 55% to meet the expected growth in demand for cobalt and lithium for electric car batteries. Similarly, the electronics sector increased by 33% to meet growing demand.

But the automotive sector remains the largest user of robotics, rising to the increasingly complex challenge of incorporating more low- and zero-emissions cars to meet 2030 climate targets. Second tier suppliers are expected to move into robotics use as they become smaller, more adaptable and cheaper.

The IFR estimates another 2m industrial robots will be in use globally by 2021.

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