By the numbers: 2 million robots by 2017: increasing user-friendliness is helping to put more of them into factories.
In 2013, the latest year for which the organization has complete data, sales of industrial robots rose 12 percent, to 178,132 units worth $9.5 billion.
IFR's data comes from projections of its members, the world's top robot manufacturers. The data include robots, but not peripherals (grippers, welders, cameras, and the like), software, and systems engineering. Those installed costs, typically three to four times the cost of the robot, would bring the total market to $29 billion in 2013.
Automakers still drive the market for industrial robots. In 2013, they purchased 69,400 units, a 4 percent increase from 2012, and accounted for nearly 40 percent of alt industrial robot installations.
BMW highlights some of the changes in the industry. The German automaker started by linking groups of robots to programmable linear controllers. As robot controllers grew more powerful, they replaced some PLC functions. This supported larger, more distributed, more flexible, and safer networks of robots.
Today, BMW's typical installation involves 800 to 1,000 industrial robots handling payloads of 10 to 750 kg. Master production scheduling takes place in the cloud, and the orders are passed down through manufacturing execution systems and 150 PLCs, each one connected to several robots. The resulting system can produce up to six different car derivatives on one line, allowing real-time customization.
Going forward, BMW's Stefan-Markus Baginski, a senior manager involved in robot installations, expects systems for programming and connecting robots and PLCs to become more open and standardized. He also expects more robot-human collaboration.
Until now, robots were limited to white body applications, the automated welding and joining of auto frame and body components, according to Universal Robots CEO Enrico Iversen. This is because working around high-speed robots is dangerous.
Universal is a pioneer in safer industrial robots that stop quickly when they contact a person. This enables them to work near people without hurting them. BMW and other automakers have begun installing these robots on assembly lines, where they can split such jobs as positioning and joining parts.
The same human-friendly robots can also shuttle work pieces in and out of machines, pack products, run tests, and place pepperoni slices on pizza in assembly lines near people.
Electronic and electrical products are the second largest industrial robot market. Orders rose 11 percent, to 36,200 units, in 2013, about 20 percent of all installations. While many electronic devices are made in low-wage nations, those countries are also rapidly installing robots to achieve the high quality needed to compete in international markets.
According to IFR, China added 50,000 new robots in 20U. It expects installations to rise 25 percent per year and reach roughly 100,000 robots annually in 2017. This will double the number of industrial robots now in China to 600,000. At that point, the number of robots in China will exceed those in Japan, Germany, Korea, and North America.
China combines an enormous manufacturing base with very low robot density. The country currently has about 30 robots per 10,000 employees. Japan and Germany have between 10 and 11 times that density. China may be able to absorb many more robots.
There are many factors, in addition to quality, driving the increased use of robots. Robots have already demonstrated their productivity. As a result, many factories choose to add robots as they retool to use new materials (such as composites) and energy-efficient technologies.
Robots are also growing easier to program and more flexible to use, enabling factories to switch between products rapidly. This is increasing the practicality of robots for smaller manufacturers who cannot afford a dedicated staff to program their systems.
ANNUAL GLOBAL ROBOT SALES BY KEY INDUSTRIES, 2011-2013 2011 2012 2013 AUTOMOTIVE 59,700 63,200 69,400 ELECTRICAL/ELECTRONICS 37,700 32,700 36,200 METAL/MACHINERY 14,100 14,100 16,500 CHEMICALS/RUBBER/PLASTICS 10,500 11,400 12,200 FOOD 4,650 4,900 6,200 ESTIMATED OPERATIONAL STOCK OF MULTIPURPOSE INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS AT YEAR-END IN SELECTED COUNTRIES. NUMBER OF UNITS Country 2012 2013 2014 * 2017 * AMERICA 207,017 226,071 249,500 313,200 Brazil 7,576 8,564 10,300 18,300 North America (Canada, Mexico, USA) 197,962 215,817 237,400 291,900 Other America 1,679 1,690 1,800 3,000 ASIA/AUSTRALIA 628,889 689,349 777,100 1,107,600 China 96,924 132,784 182,300 427,900 India 7,840 9,677 12,100 23,300 Japan 310,508 304,001 306,700 287,000 Republic of Korea 138,883 156,110 175,600 227,500 Taiwan 32,455 37,252 42,600 56,300 Thailand 17,116 20,337 24,400 40,100 Other Asia/ Australia 25,163 29,188 33,400 45,500 EUROPE 380,546 392,227 411,500 476,800 Czech Rep. 6,830 8,097 9,800 15,500 France 33,624 32,301 31,600 30,200 Germany 161,988 167,579 175,200 199,200 Italy 60,750 59,078 58,400 57,800 Spain 28,911 28,091 28,700 32,000 United Kingdom 15,046 15,591 17,300 23,800 Other Europe 73,397 81,490 90,500 118,300 AFRICA 2,858 3,501 4,200 6,600 NOT SPECIFIED BY COUNTRIES ** 16,079 21,070 25,600 41,800 Total 1,235,389 1,332,218 1,467,900 1,946,000 Sources: IFR, national robot associations * forecast ** reported and estimated sales which could not be specified by countries
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|Title Annotation:||TECH BUZZ//TRENDING|
|Author:||Brown, Alan S.|
|Date:||May 1, 2015|
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