23 Jul 2024


Global robot sales bounce back to hit record highs

Installations of industrial robots in Europe rebounded in 2021 after a two-year decline to hit a record high (figures: thousands of robots shipped)

Global sales of industrial robots bounced back during 2021 to hit an all-time high of 486,800 shipped machines – a 27% increase on the figure for 2020 – according to preliminary data released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

“Robot installations around the world recovered strongly to make 2021 the most successful year ever for the robotics industry,” says IFR president, Milton Guerry. “Due to the ongoing trend towards automation and continued technological innovation, demand reached high levels across industries. In 2021, even the pre-pandemic record of 422,000 installations per year in 2018 was exceeded.”

The main driver for this growth was the electronics sector which bought 132,000 industrial robots during 2021 – a 21% increase on the previous year – putting it comfortably ahead of the previous front-runner, the automotive industry which added 109,000 robots during 2021, representing a growth rate of 37%. The electronics sector overtook the automotive industry in 2020 to become the biggest buyer of industrial robots.

Demand from the metals and machinery sector expanded by 38% during 2021 to reach a total of 57,000 new installations, putting it ahead of the plastics and chemicals sector with 22,500 new installations (a 21% increase) and the food and beverage industry with 15,300 new machines (a 24% rise).

The Asia/Australia region remains the world’s biggest market for industrial robots, accounting for 73% of all new robots installed during 2021. This represents a total of 354,500 machines – up 33% on the figure for 2020. Most of these (123,800) went to the electronics sector – 22% more than in 2020 – followed by the automotive industry (72,600 installations, +57%) and the metals and machinery industry (36,400 installations, +29%).

Industrial robot installations in Europe recovered during 2021 following a two-year decline, with a 15% increase to 78,000 shipments, exceeding the region’s previous peak of 75,600, reached in 2018. Although the automotive industry remains the biggest buyer of robots in Europe, its demand remained static during 2021 at 19,300 machines, while demand for metals and machinery applications soaring by 50% to 15,500 installations, followed by the plastics and chemicals sector where demand rose by 30% to hit 7,700 installations.

In the Americas, the number of industrial robot installed during 2021 was the second-highest ever, with a 27% rise in demand to 49,400 robots. More than two thirds (68%) of these were destined for the US, which added 33,800 new machines to its robot population.

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