ANN ARBOR, MI—According to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), 7,005 robots valued at $446.2 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies through June. An additional 211 robots valued at $19.5 million were ordered from North American robotics suppliers by manufacturing companies located outside of North America. The combined totals of 7,216 robots valued at $465.7 million represent gains of 34 percent in units and 15 percent in dollars over the first half of 2002.

Robotics for spot welding and material handling applications led the way. While the automotive industry remains the largest customer for robotics, RIA reports increasing demand for robots in other industries, such as food and beverages, consumer goods, life sciences and plastics.

“Robotic use continues to increase in industries that aren’t traditionally thought of as major robotics users,” says Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA. “For example, as more companies in the food and consumer goods industries use robots, we see other companies following suit. The gains in productivity, quality and flexibility that robots provide can help them become stronger global competitors.”

Vincent said that the industry is focusing more attention than ever on new markets for robotics. “The recent slowdown in capital equipment spending, particularly in heavy manufacturing industries, has necessitated a stronger effort to find new markets for robotics. At RIA, we’ve developed new initiatives to reach small- and medium-sized companies in particular that have never used robotics.”

Vincent also noted that the International Robots & Vision Show in Chicago was well attended by potential users from new robotics markets. “Some 15 percent of the audience came from food and beverage, and consumer goods industries. Because nearly half of the show attendees plan to purchase robots within the next year, we expect to see continued momentum for robot use in these industries,” he says.