25 Jul 2024


Global robot population heads towards two million

More than 200,000 industrial robots will be installed worldwide this year – 15% more than in 2013 – and the total number in use in factories around the world could reach two million by the end of 2017, according to new figures released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

IFR president Arturo Baroncelli predicts that between 2015 and 2017, the number of installed industrial robots will grow by around 12% per year. In the Americas and Europe, sales will rise by about 6%, and in Asia/Australia by about 16% per year.

But the IFR’s World Robotics 2014 report also contains a warning from a robotics expert of challenges that lie ahead for the robot industry. Dr Stefan-Markus Baginski, a senior manager for installations, control systems and joining technologies at BMW, believes that the robot community has to take the responsibility not only for developing new technology, but also for persuading society to accept new directions in automation.

“To a lot of people, the use of robots still creates a sense of fear,” he says, “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.”

Baginski also argues that we need to simplify the effort, training and expertise required to program and use robots. He points out that each robot supplier has its own programming language and sees an opportunity to develop open standards for robots, similar to those that exist for PLCs.

Baginski argues that we are not yet using the capabilities of PLCs and robot controllers to their full potential. He points out how our mobile devices link extensively with phone networks, social platforms and cloud services. “All of these efforts are to create a better service for us and make our life much more convenient,” he says. “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.”

The IFR report confirms that the automotive sector is still the largest global user of industrial robots. It adds that the cyclical pattern of demand traditionally associated with this sector has largely disappeared since 2010, with investments rising constantly since then and expected to do so for the foreseeable future.

The IFR predicts increasing orders for robots from other sectors, such as the rubber and plastics, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and the metal and machinery industries. It adds that the electrical/electronics industry is increasing its investments in robots for production automation as well as in retooling for new production processes.


The fastest-growing region for robots is Asia with sales expected to grow by about 21% during 2014. Sales to the Americas will increase by 11%, driven by increasing demand from North America and Brazil, while installations in Europe will rise by just 6%. In some European countries, sales will stagnate this year.

According to the IFR, around 50,000 robots will be sold in China during 2014 – about a quarter of the global total. Between 2015 and 2017, it expects the Chinese market to expand by at least 25% per year to reach 100,000 machines by 2017, taking the total number of robots installed in China to more than 400,000. It reports that growing numbers of Chinese robot manufacturers are entering the market and predicts that competition with foreign suppliers will increase.

IFR expects new markets to emerge for industrial robots in applications such battery-charging stations for electric vehicles, and the production of the high-power batteries to provide energy storage to buffer renewable energy sources.

•  In a separate report, the IFR says that about 21,000 service robots for professional use were sold worldwide in 2013 – 4% more than in 2012. Over the period 2014–2017, its expects sales to increase to about 134,500, with an estimated value of $18.9bn.

During 2013, about four million service robots for personal and domestic use, worth about $1.7bn, were sold worldwide – 28% more than in 2012. IFR estimates that about 31 million service robots for personal use will be sold between 2014 and 2017.