ANN ARBOR, MI—North American robot orders rose 11 percent during the first 9 months of 2002, compared to the same period in 2001, according to statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA). Through September 2002, 7,511 robots were ordered by North American customers. Adding in sales outside North America, North American robot suppliers sold 7,766 robots in the first 9 months of 2002. This is a 5 percent gain in units, com-pared with the first 9 months of 2001.

The biggest gains in 2002 have been orders for arc welding, dispensing and coating, spot welding and high-payload material handling and assembly robots. The only major application areas that declined during this period were low-payload assembly and material handling applications, material removal and inspection. However, these application areas only account for 15 percent of the robotics market.

The biggest increase in robot orders occurred in the third quarter of 2002. Overall, total orders for North American robot suppliers increased 32 percent in units over the third quarter of 2001. The RIA also noted that North American orders in the third quarter of 2002 grew 6 percent in units over the second quarter of 2002, a healthy increase in a quarter that’s usually weaker.

One key reason for such strong third quarter gains could be recovery from the downturn that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001.

"We’re encouraged by the double-digit increase in North American orders through September and by the sequential increase in the third quarter," says Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA.