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Industrial Robots - Facts & Figures:

According to the International Federation of Robotics accelerating demand for industrial robots will continue in the future. 2014 saw an increase of at least 15% and the estimated increase in the period 2015-2017 is 12% on average per year.  More than 200,000 industrial robots will be installed in 2014 worldwide, which is 15% more than in 2013.

Automotive and electronics industry - the main growth drivers
The high volume of industrial robot orders will continue to come from the automotive industry. Usually, investments of the automotive industry are cyclical. However, since 2010, investments have been on the rise without a considerable cyclical effect. This outstanding development will continue also in 2014 and beyond. However, robot supply may slow down in certain markets. The electrical/electronics industry is increasing robot investments in production automation as well as in retooling for new production processes. A further increase of robot orders from other industries is also likely, particularly from the rubber and plastics industry, pharmaceutical industry, the food and beverage industry, and the metal and machinery industry.

Major growth in Asia in 2014
Major growth of about 21% is expected in Asia in 2014, particularly in China and Taiwan, in Korea and in most of the other Southeast Asian markets. Robot sales to the Americas will increase by 11% in 2014 driven by the increasing demand in North America and Brazil.  Robot installations in Europe are estimated to rise by 6% (particularly the German market is expected to have further growth). Sales in other Western European countries are expected to stagnate, or even increase in 2014 despite the worsening economic conditions in various countries.

Booming robot market - China
Sales of industrial robots will gain considerable momentum in the coming years in China. In 2014, it is estimated that sales will increase to about 50,000 units. From 2015 to 2017, an increase of at least 25% on average per year is possible, to about 100,000 units in 2017. By 2017, more than 400,000 industrial robots will be installed in the factories of China.  More and more Chinese robot suppliers have been entering the market. The competition between foreign and Chinese robot suppliers is deemed to increase. The Chinese market offers huge potentials for installation of various kinds of robots in the coming years.

A wider range of use in the automotive industry
Breathtaking advancements and innovative technological developments in industrial manufacturing have caused a substantial increase in the number of robot installations during the past four years especially in the automotive industry. In his special feature on the future challenges in robotics for the automotive industry, Dr. Stefan Markus Baginski, BMW, sees still a wide range of opportunities for using even more robots in the automotive manufacturing. Capabilities of both PLCs and Robot Controllers are not yet exploited to their full potential: "Especially if we look at how extensively our mobile devices are linked together with the telephone network, social platforms and cloud services. All these efforts are to create a better service for us and make our life much more convenient. To adapt this to a fleet of robots is one of the challenges of the future. Imagine how much energy, maintenance effort, space and hardware we could save if, for example, the robot controller were just a cloud service to which all robots were connected to keep their individual program running."

Baginski believes that this also influences another important topic which is the necessary effort to learn how to program and use a robot. This still requires a lot of training and expertise. Each robot supplier has its own programming language etc. He sees a chance in the first developments of open standards as for PLCs. Also the advanced human robot cooperation, which allows direct interaction between humans and robots, is just in the beginning stages and will open up new possibilities for the use of robots in automotive manufacturing.

Baginski concludes that the whole robot community - to which also the car manufacturers belong - has to take the responsibility not just to develop technology but also change the mindset in society for new directions in automation. "To a lot of people the usage of robots still creates a sense of fear but at the same time they use their iPhones to automate daily activities. This occurs when technology is not explained properly and the benefits for all are not understood by the masses. With deeper understanding we would gain even more for the future development of robot technology."

New market electro-mobility
A new market arises from the growth of electro-mobility and the need for stationary energy storage for the buffering volatile renewable energies in power grids: High-power batteries. Their production is more complex than the common consumer-type batteries on the market today. High precision, high quality and the increase of productivity are keys to success here too, which requires automation and thus robots. For electro-mobility, battery changing stations are discussed as an alternative to battery loading stations. This could be another attractive future market for robots.

The above information is based on the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) report.

© 2017 Eunited aisbl, Bruxelles