ANN ARBOR, MI-Evidence of the upturn in the robotics market continues.

North American manufacturing companies ordered 19 percent more robots from North American suppliers in 2003 than in 2002, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).

A total of 12,367 robots valued at $876.5 million were ordered. When sales to companies outside North America are added in, the total is 12,881 robots valued at $913 million.

"It's encouraging to see the robotics industry approaching the figures we hit prior to the double whammy of the economic slowdown and the impact of 9/11," says Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA. "Robotics use is definitely on an upswing, and I expect this to continue throughout this decade and well beyond. We've only scraped the surface of potential robot applications."

RIA recently started tracking orders by end-user industry. According to 2003 figures, 68 percent of robot orders went to automotive-related applications. Only 32 percent went to nonautomotive markets, such as food and consumer goods, plastics and rubber, life sciences and electronics.

Material handling is still the largest application area for robots, followed by spot welding, arc welding, coating and dispensing, assembly, material removal and inspection.