North American robotics companies posted gains of 24% in new orders in the first quarter, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA, Ann Arbor, Mich.), the industry's trade group.
A total of 4,603 robots valued at $274.5 million were sold to North American manufacturing firms through March. When sales to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 5,027 robots valued at $293.9 million, a gain of 26% in units and three percent in revenue.
''It's encouraging to see new orders growing again,'' said Donald A. Vincent, RIA's executive vice president. ''This is the highest number of robots we've seen ordered in a quarter since midway through 2005.''
Vincent explained that one of the drivers in the first quarter growth was a pick-up in orders placed by automotive manufacturing companies and their suppliers. ''Orders to the automotive sector jumped 45% in the first quarter when compared to the prior year, while orders to non-automotive companies actually fell nine percent,'' he said.
Other sectors where RIA saw order growth in the first quarter include life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomedical (up 48%) and plastics and rubber (up nine percent). ''While these are relatively small market segments for robot suppliers, we're encouraged to see them growing and look forward to future increases as robots gain more traction in these industries,'' Vincent commented.
From an applications standpoint, the first quarter saw growth in orders for robots that perform spot welding, arc welding, coating/dispensing, and material handling applications. ''We're not surprised by the growth in spot welding since that application is closely tied to automotive,'' said Vincent.
RIA estimates that some 168,000 robots are now at use in U.S. factories, placing the United States second only to Japan in overall robot use.
For more details about RIA and the robotics industry, visit www.roboticsonline.com.