Ann Arbor, MI-North American robotics companies are on pace for a record year, with domestic orders up 30 percent in the first 9 months of 2005.

According to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), as of September, 14,840 robots valued at $913.3 million had been ordered by North American manufacturing companies. When sales to companies outside North America are added in, the total is 15,791 robots, valued at $961.5 million.

"We expect that the final year end numbers will set a record for total robots ordered, eclipsing the mark set in 1999, and will come close to a record in terms of revenue," says Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA. Vincent adds that robotics prices have fallen over the past several years, making them more affordable than ever for manufacturing companies of all sizes.

According to RIA, the biggest growth areas this year have been for robots used in material handling applications (up 45 percent), arc welding (up 37 percent) and spot welding (up 19 percent).

The automotive industry, traditionally the largest robotics user, has increased its robotics orders by 44 percent in 2005. Vincent attributes this to the fact that automotive companies and their suppliers are finding new applications to boost productivity, increase flexibility, improve quality and reduce overall manufacturing costs.

Vincent says metalworking industries also are increasing their purchases of robots this year, as are companies in life sciences, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and electronics.