22 Jul 2024


China is world’s biggest buyer and user of robots

China has broken new records in its uptake of industrial robots. The number of robots it bought during 2016 soared by 27% to 87,000, making China the world’s largest market, both in terms of robots sold and the total number in service (340,000 – a 33% increase on 2015). These figures come from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which predicts that the number of industrial robots bought in China will grow by 15–20% per year between 2018 and 2020.

The number of robots sold in China last year was the highest ever recorded for a single country. “There has never been such a dynamic rise in such a short period of time in any other market,” reports IFR president, Joe Gemma.

Of the 87,000 new industrial robots installed in China last year, about 27,000 came from Chinese suppliers – an increase of 27% on 2015.

Another notable development in 2016 was that sales of industrial robots to the Chinese electrical and electronics sector soared by 75%, to reach almost 30,000, overtaking sales to the automotive industry for the first time. About one third of these robots came from Chinese robot-makers, whose sales rose by almost 120%. International robot suppliers also benefited from the electrical and electronics boom, with a 59% increase in sales.

IFR predicts that demand from this sector will grow further. It points out that the semiconductor industry is investing strongly in automation, while large battery production facilities are being installed to meet the increasing demand for electric and hybrid cars.

Although the automotive industry lost its pole position to the electrical and electronics industry in 2016, it is still a powerful driver for industrial robot sales. China has become both the world’s largest car market and the biggest car producer. Sales of automotive robots to China made up 25% of the global supply to this sector in 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, a total of 108,000 robots were installed in Chinese automotive applications, representing an average increase of 18% per year.

The share of the global automotive robot market held by Chinese robot-makers industry is still relatively small, but has risen from 10% to 13%.

The Chinese government wants the country to become one of the world’s top 10 most intensively automated nations by 2020. It is aiming for a robot density of 150 robots per 10,000 industrial employees by then. This compares with current figures of 531 in South Korea, 301 in Germany and 176 in the US.