Robot rebound looks set to continue

31 March 2011

2010 appears to have been a very successful year for the robotics industry, a welcome change following the drastic decline in orders experienced in 2009.

According to the latest International Federation of Robotics (IFR) figures, sales of industrial robots doubled in 2010, compared to 2009, with the main drivers for this recovery coming from automotive, metal and the electronics industries in all regions.

We are told that the prospects for 2011 are also promising with many automation projects being announced, not just in the automotive sector. The strongly growing consumer markets in Southeast Asia, India, Brazil and Russia and environmental regulations are pushing investments in new production sites as well as in renovation of the existing ones. The high order volumes could make a further increase of robot sales of about 10% possible in 2011.

Commenting on the figures, Per Vegard Nerseth, head of ABB Robotics' global operations said that the recovery had been remarkable: "Who would have dared to forecast, back in the summer of 2009, that 2010 would be a record breaking year in sales of industrial robots. I think that it took the whole of the industry by surprise! The really exciting news is that the trend looks like continuing in 2011 and beyond.”

Olaf Gehrels, CEO FANUC Robotics Europe reported very strong interest from the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries in addition to the traditional stronghodl of the robot, the automotive industry.

Discussing the Italian market in particular, Arturo Baroncelli, sales and marketing manager for COMAU said: "In 2010 the Italian market nearly reached the volumes of 2008. We are expecting a further increase of sales, both at national and international level."

BARA, the British Automation and Robot Association, had good news about UK market too, reporting that 2010 UK robot sales were up 65% on 2009 figures, reversing a five year declining trend in UK robot sales. Its annual end-of-year robot sales comparison survey showed that the increase in UK robot sales was higher than predicted. “The 2010 figures, the best result since 2005, paint an optimistic picture for robotics and automation,” said Mike Wilson President of BARA. Significantly, the survey shows that in the UK the automotive sector is declining, having taken 35% of sales in 2010 compared with 48% in 2006, whereas sales to late adopters of automation – namely the food, pharmaceutical and aerospace industries – are all up.

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