ANN ARBOR, MI--The North American robotics industry posted its second best year ever in 2000.

According to the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), North American robotics suppliers booked orders for 12,744 units in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and 1,583 units outside of North America. Although the total number of orders in 2000 was 13 percent less than in the record-setting year of 1999, the value of those orders was $1.1 billion, making the year 2000 the fourth straight year that robot sales have exceeded $1 billion.

"We saw strong growth in several application areas for robots, including assembly, material removal and dispensing," says Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA. "Orders for material handling robots, which is the largest application area for robots, came within just two percentage points of the record set for this application in 1999."

Approximately 110,000 robots are at work in U.S. factories, making the United States the world's second largest user of robotics. Only Japan uses more robots.