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Sales of smaller robots charge ahead

30 January, 2013

Sales of robots with payloads of less than 15kg are likely to grow faster than those of larger industrial robots in the coming years, according to a new study by IMS Research. The two fastest-growing sectors for industrial robots between 2011 and 2016 are likely to be the food & beverage, and the personal care and consumer electronics industries, with average annual growth rates of 8.6% and 8% respectively. Lower payload applications are more common in these industries than in traditional robot markets, such as the automotive sector.

In 2011, the global market for industrial robots was worth an estimated $8.2bn with about two-thirds of this coming from sales of robots for applications with payloads above 15kg. IMS predicts that from 2011 to 2016, revenues from articulated robots with payloads of less than 15kg will grow at an average rate of 6% a year.

The move to smaller robots is being driven, in part, by advances in technologies such as machine vision, sensing and gripping, which are allowing robots to be used in new applications and in unfamiliar sectors.

Another factor has been the rising wages in countries such as China where manufacturing was previously dominated by manual assembly processes.

“The interest in industrial robots has increased in labour-intensive industries as companies look to automate and cut costs,” says IMS analyst, Kiran Patel. “Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn has announced that it plans to deploy one million industrial robots in its plants in 2–3 years. Whether or not this does come into fruition is another question, but this certainly points towards the growing application of industrial robots in the industry.”
 
The food and beverage industry is attractive to robot manufacturers because it is less affected by changes in economic activity than the automotive sector. The manufacturers have responded by offering robots with high protection classes, making them suitable for food and beverage production.




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