ANN ARBOR-New orders for industrial robots jumped 28 percent through September 2003, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).

North American robotic suppliers received orders for 10,051 robots valued at $698.2 million from North American manufacturers in the first nine months of 2003. An additional 331 robots valued at $29.3 million were ordered by manufacturing companies from outside North America. This is an increase of 28 percent in units and 15 percent in dollars over the same period in 2002.

While automotive manufacturers and suppliers remain the largest customers in the robotics industry, fabricated metals, food and consumer goods, semiconductors and electronics, and plastics and rubber, and life sciences industries continue to strengthen. Material handling continues to be the largest application area for robotics, followed by spot welding, arc welding, coating and dispensing, assembly and material removal.

"While it's too early to declare that the robotics industry is on the road to new record sales, we're very encouraged by the fact that nearly as many robots have been ordered through three quarters of 2003 as were ordered for the entire year of 2002," says Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of RIA.