23 Jul 2024


Industrial robot sales set to double to 400,000 by 2018

Global sales of industrial robots are moving relentlessly upwards

The number of industrial robots sold worldwide will almost double between 2014 and 2018 to reach around 400,000 machines a year, according to latest forecast from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). It predicts that in the period to 2018, global sales will grow at a year-on-year average rate of 15%, with the big regional driver being China which is already the largest and fastest-growing robotics market in the world, with sales in 2014 being 56% higher than in 2013.

Despite the recent economic downturn in China, its potential remains enormous, according to the IFR. The Federation points out that Chinese production industries currently use just 36 robots per 10,000 employees, compared to 478 in South Korea, 315 in Japan, 292 in Germany and 164 in the US. The IFR estimates that, by 2018, more than a third of new installations of industrial robots will be in China.

China and four other markets – Japan, USA, South Korea and Germany – account for 70% of global robot purchases.

“Including supporting services, we estimate the global market value in 2014 to be $32bn,” says IFR president, Arturo Baroncelli. “The main driver of this development has been global competition in industrial production.”

The automotive and electrical/electronics sectors continue to dominate the industrial robotics sector, together accounting for 64% of the market.

In 2014, the global automotive industry set a new record by installing 100,000 robots – a 43% increase on 2013. This boom has been fuelled by new production facilities in emerging markets, and by a wave of modernisation sweeping through established auto-making countries. Many of the robots were bought by suppliers of components to the automotive industry.

Similarly, the electrical/electronics sector posted a new record in 2014, with sales up 34% on the previous year. This sector currently accounts for around 21% of the global market for industrial robots.

Last year, German industry bought its biggest-ever number of robots in a single year – about 20,100, representing a 10% increase on the previous year. The German market is far ahead of any other European country and, despite having a high high robot density, IFR expects it to expand further, driven primarily by the automotive industry.

In the US, the number of installed industrial robots increased by 11% during 2014 to reach around 26,000 machines, giving it the world’s third-largest population. The IFR sees big opportunities for growth in the US as it automates its economy at high speed to strengthen itself as an industrial centre and to bring back outsourced production.

According to the IFR, the wave of digital transformation and automation “will continue to drive the triumphant march of industrial robots onwards up to 2018”. For example, Industry 4.0 projects mean that human-robot teams are on the cusp of a breakthrough. Easier-to-use robots will also open up new applications, it adds, both for small and medium-sized companies and for large corporations. This development is increasingly being felt in the metal processing, plastics, food and packaging industries, the IFR says.

•  In a second report, the IFR predicts that global sales of privately-used service robots will reach about 35 million machines by 2018. There are already more than 300 manufacturers of service robots active around the world and sales by 2018 are expected to worth more than $12bn. In addition, the IFR expects sales of entertainment and leisure robots to reach nine million by 2018, while more than 150,000 service robots will be sold for professional uses (mainly for defence, agriculture and logistics applications), generating revenues of around $20bn.