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Robot Orders Surge

Pent-up demand and a stronger economy boost first half 2004 results for North American robot suppliers.

Automotive applications still represent about 65 percent of robots sales, but other industries are stepping up their use of robo
Automotive applications still represent about 65 percent of robots sales, but other industries are stepping up their use of robo

Spurred by a strengthening manufacturing economy, North American robotics manufacturers turned in strong growth numbers during this year’s first half.

Figures released recently by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), Ann Arbor, Mich., show that North American manufacturing companies ordered 7,852 robots valued at $473.3 million through June, an increase of 12 percent in units and 6 percent in dollars over the first half of 2003. An additional 687 robots valued at $39.7 million were sold to companies outside of North America, a gain of 226 percent in units and 104 percent in dollars over the same period last year.

Combined, the North American and outside North America sales yield gains of 18 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars. The numbers are based on totals provided by RIA member companies, which the association estimates represent more than 90 percent of the North American robotics market.

“The opening half of 2004 was very strong,” said Donald A. Vincent, RIA executive vice president. “It’s clear that the improvement in the North American economy, combined with pent-up demand for robots, fueled solid gains for our industry.”

Non-automotive gains

Vincent said most of the gains are coming in non-automotive markets. “Auto companies and their suppliers remain the largest market for robot manufacturers, accounting for about 65 percent of the sales in North America. However, this is down from about 75 percent a year ago,” Vincent noted. “We’re seeing healthy gains in industries such as semiconductors and electronics, metals, plastics and rubber, food and consumer goods, and life sciences and pharmaceuticals.”

New orders for material handling robots, the largest application area, grew 26 percent in the first half of the year. Strong gains were also seen in material removal, at 33 percent, and arc welding, at 18 percent.

RIA estimates that some 140,000 industrial robots are now being used in the United States.

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