ANN ARBOR, MI-New orders received by North American based robotics companies rose 39 percent in the first half of 2007, with orders by automotive manufacturers and their suppliers leading the way.

According to theRobotic Industries Association(RIA), North American manufacturing companies ordered approximately 9,200 robots valued at $525 million through June. When orders to companies outside North America are included, total sales for North American-based robot suppliers totaled nearly 10,000 robots valued at $563 million. These totals represent a gain of 40 percent in units and 12 percent in revenue.

According to RIA, the April to June quarter was especially strong, with increases of 60 percent in units and 24 percent in revenue over the same period in 2006. Orders by automotive manufacturers and their suppliers increased 76 percent. On the down side, nonautomotive orders declined 5 percent, though orders by companies in the medical sector logged a 13 percent increase.

"Automotive industry buying patterns for robots are quite cyclical, and this year we're seeing the upswing,'' says RIA Executive Vice President, Jeffrey A. Burnstein. "We're happy to see some of the nonautomotive markets growing, but would like to see this extended to areas such as semiconductors and electronics, metals, and plastics and rubber."

In terms of applications, spot welding orders posted a whopping 150 percent increase in the first 6 months of the year, with material handling orders posting a healthy 25 percent increase. "This is what you would expect to see when the automotive industry is ramping up its robot orders," Burnstein says.