The worldwide sales of industrial robots grew in 2017 by 31%.
The provisional figures have been released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and presented at its IFR CEO Roundtable.
Sales reached the new record of 387,000 units in 2017 which compares with 294,300 units in 2016. China saw the largest growth in demand for industrial robots, up 58%. Sales in the US increased by 6% and Germany by 8%.
By industry, the automotive industry continues to lead global demand for industrial robots: in 2017, around 125,500 units were sold in this segment, equivalent to growth of 21%. The strongest growth sectors in 2017 were the metal industry (+55%), the electrical/electronics industry (+33%) and the food industry (+19%).
In terms of sales volume, Asia has the strongest individual markets. China installed around 138,000 industrial robots in 2017, followed by Japan with around 46,000 units and South Korea with around 40,000 units. In the Americas, the US is the largest single market with around 33,000 industrial robots sold, and in Europe it is Germany with around 22,000 units sold.
Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics, said: “The growth of industrial robots continues at an impressive pace worldwide. Key trends such as digitalisation, simplification and human-robot collaboration will certainly shape the future and drive forward rapid development.”
A statement from IFR which accompanied the figures said: “In the course of digitalisation, real production is becoming increasingly connected with the virtual data world, opening up completely new possibilities for analysis – right through to machine learning. Robots will acquire new skills through learning processes.
“At the same time, the industry is working to simplify the handling of robots. In the future industrial robots should be easier and faster to program using intuitive procedures. Such a technology is not only attractive to established users, but also to small and medium-sized companies, for example, companies who can use it to introduce automation without the need for highly experienced or expert personnel.
“This development also paves the way for the third major robotics trend: collaboration between humans and robots without protective barriers offers new approaches to new flexible production processes. In the future human-robot collaboration will support the flexible production of small quantities with high complexity.”