ANN ARBOR, MI-North American manufacturing companies purchased 14,838 robots valued at nearly $1 billion in 2004, a 20 percent increase in units over 2003 and the industry's second best unit total ever, according to a report from the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).

Orders by North American automotive manufacturers and their suppliers accounted for about 64 percent of the total, down from 68 percent in 2003. According to Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA, this indicates robots are gaining acceptance in a diverse range of companies in industries such as food, pharmaceuticals, electronics, aerospace and life sciences.

North American robotics companies also saw big gains in orders from foreign companies. A total of 1,291 robots valued at $65 million were shipped abroad, an increase of 152 percent in units and 78 percent in revenue. Overall, North American robotics companies sold 16,129 robots valued at $1.06 billion, for gains of 25 percent in units and 16 percent in revenue. RIA estimates that some 144,000 robots are currently in use in the United States, placing the country second to Japan in terms of robot use.

According to Vincent, small and medium-sized companies will be among the target audience for this year's biennial International Robots & Vision Show and Conference at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, Sept. 27-29. For more information on RIA and the robotics industry, visit or call 734-994-6088.