The Line

China is top market for industrial robots

By:Capacity Magazine

Issue:Winter 2015 : Nuts & Bolts

For those who are convinced that the deployment of advanced robotic technologies will make the United States more competitive against China, beware: Chinese companies are installing a lot more industrial robots at a faster rate than are American anufacturers. America’s competitors are not standing still, not in China, Korea, Japan or Europe.

In 2013, China became the largest market in the world for industrial robots, at 36,560 units, accounting for 20.5 percent of the 178,132 global installations. Chinese companies that manufacture industrial robots installed 9,000 units in China, a sales volume that was triple the level of 2012.

Foreign robot suppliers increased their sales by 20 percent in China in 2013, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). Between 2008 and 2013, total sales of industrial robots in China increased by 36 percent per year.

By comparison, 23,700 industrial robots were installed in the United States in 2013, a number that represents two-thirds the Chinese total and 13.3 percent of all global installations. European companies installed 24.3 percent of all industrial robots in 2013 at 43,300 (an increase of 5 percent from 2012) and almost double the number of American installations. The U.S. market for industrial robots increased by 6 percent in 2013.

Japan also was a bigger market for industrial robots, with 25,110 units installed in 2013, an increase of 12 percent from 2012. Korea wasn’t far behind the United States at 21,300 units installed in 2013, followed by Germany at 18,300 units.

Global sales of industrial robots increased by 12 percent in 2013, with a total market value of $9.5 billion, a new record. The figure does not include the cost of software, peripheral equipment and systems engineering. If those costs are included, the total market value for industrial robotic systems is estimated to be $29 billion.

Globally, the automobile industry was the biggest buyer of industrial robots at 69,400 units, up by 4 percent over the previous year and accounting for 39 percent of all sales. The electrical/ electronics industry was next, with robot sales increasing 11 percent to 36,200 units.

The rubber and plastics industry was next at 12,200 units, or about 7 percent of total sales followed by metal and machinery (at 16,500 units, the same level as in 2012); food and beverage (at 6,200 units, up 28 percent); and pharmaceutical and cosmetics (at 2,000 units, up 69 percent over 2012). The total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots at the end of 2013 was in the range of between 1,332,000 and 1,600,000 units, says IFR.

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