Robbie the Robot's progeny are alive and multiplying. According to a report issued last week by the Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbau
(Association of German Machinery and Plant Construction), there are
currently some 6.5 million robots in use worldwide. This figure
includes one million industrial robots and 5.5 million service robots.
By the end of 2011, however, the World Robotics 2008
report predicts those numbers will almost triple to 17 million service
robots and 1.2 million industrial robots. Robotics represented a bright
spot in technology, thanks to the installation of 114,365 new
industrial robots, the report says.
The value of the robotics market in 2007 was $6 billion, according
to VDMA. "This generally does not include the cost of software,
peripherals and systems engineering," according to a VDMA statement
which estimated the potential market as anywhere from two to three
times that amount.
Interestingly, growth is inconsistent depending on region. The
markets that currently have the highest concentration of robotics,
including Japan and the Republic of Korea, showed a decline in robot
installations of about 4 percent. Emerging markets, such as China,
southeast Asia and India, showed increases in installations, as did the
U.S. and Europe.
10.22.08 -- North American companies installed about 19,600
industrial robots in 2007, an increase of 9 percent over 2006 according
to the report, which attributed this increase to increased automation
in the automotive industry.
The results were even better in Europe, where sales increased by 15
percent to approximately 34,900 units; Germany represented the largest
share of this growth, which was spread across multiple industries:
automotive, metal and engineering, glass, electrical and electronics
and food and beverage.
The report anticipates these industries will continue to surpass the
automotive industry as a key driver of robotics installations. "The
automated handling and manipulation of parts and material is gaining
substantially in importance in all manufacturing sectors. Manufacturers
using machine tools are increasing the hours that factories can stay
operational via automation with industrial robots. Robots replace
workers as managers of machine tools, providing tools, material and
parts from stores near to the machine tool. This enables machining
centers to keep running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," the report says.
These trends will only continue, thanks to advancements in other
segments of technology, the report predicted. "Improvements in sensor
technology like robot vision, force sensing and environment recognition
will enhance quality control and inspection. Improvements in
communications such as remote operation and better human-machine
interfaces will open up new customer groups such as small- and
medium-sized companies. Improvements in system technology, like
off-line programming, safety and multi-robot cooperation will guarantee
sophisticated solutions for automating processes."
Robbie the Robot would be darn proud.
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