ANN ARBOR, MI-North American robotics companies enjoyed a 12 percent increase in new orders in the first quarter of 2007, according to a report by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).

In all, North American manufacturers sold 4,153 robots valued at $260.6 million through March. When sales to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 4,559 robots valued at $279.2 million, a gain of 14 percent in units and a decline of 2 percent in revenue.

According to RIA, sales to the automotive sector jumped 25 percent compared to the same time last year. Overall orders to nonautomotive companies fell 9 percent, but sales to the life sciences, pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors were up 48 percent.

From an applications standpoint, the first quarter saw growth in orders for robots that perform spot welding, coating and dispensing, and material handling applications.

RIA estimates that some 168,000 robots are now in use in U.S. factories, placing the United States second only to Japan in overall robot use. For additional information,