1.7 million new robots to transform the world´s factories by 202002 October 2017

Robot growth continues Robot growth continues

By 2020 more than 1.7 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world.

Today, the strongest growth in the robotics industry is in Asia – lead by China as the world´s number one marketplace. In 2017 robot installations are estimated to increase by 21 per cent in the Asia-Australia region. Robot supplies in the Americas will surge by 16 per cent and in Europe by eight per cent. Important drivers of this development: robot adoption is a response to faster business cycles and the requirement to produce with greater flexibility tailored to customer demand in all manufacturing sectors. A new generation of industrial robots will pave the way for ever more flexible automation. So says the 2017 World Robotics Report, as published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

"Robots offer high levels of precision and their connectivity will play a key role in new digital manufacturing environments,” Joe Gemma, president of the International Federation of Robotics, said. “Increasing availability enables more and more manufacturers from companies of all sizes to automate.”

In terms of units, it is estimated that by 2020 the worldwide stock of operational industrial robots will increase from about 1,828,000 units at the end of 2016 to 3,053,000 units. This represents an average annual growth rate of 14 per cent between 2018 and 2020. In Australasia, the operational stock of robots is estimated to increase by 16 per cent in 2017, by nine per cent in the Americas and by seven per cent in Europe. Since 2016, the largest number of industrial robots in operation has been in China. In 2020, this will amount to about 950,300 units, considerably more than in Europe (611,700 units). The Japanese robot stock will slightly increase in the period between 2018 and 2020. About 1.9 million robots will be in operation across Asia in 2020. This is almost equal to the global stock of robots in 2016.

Industry 4.0 - linking the real-life factory with virtual reality - will play an increasingly

important role in global manufacturing. As obstacles like system complexities and data incompatibility are overcome, manufacturers will integrate robots into factory-wide networks of machines and systems. Robot manufacturers are already developing and commercializing new service models: these are based on real-time data collected by sensors which are attached to robots. Analysts predict a rapidly growing market for cloud robotics in which data from one robot is compared to data from other robots in the same or different locations. The cloud network allows these connected robots to perform the same activities. This will be used to optimize parameters of the robot’s movement such as speed, angle or force. Ultimately, the advent of big data in manufacturing could redefine the industry boundaries between equipment makers and manufacturers.

Some robot manufacturers are also considering

leasing models, particularly in order to accelerate adoption by

small-to-medium-sized manufacturers. Simplification is a key trend for this

market segment. The ongoing need for robots which are easier to use and to program

and the increasing need for ever more flexible automation initiated the

development of smarter solutions. This is especially useful for industries with

a lack of specialized production engineers in-house. Thus, it is important to

provide easy-to-use robots that can easily be integrated into and operated in

standard production processes. Robots that are uncomplicated to use will enable

the deployment of industrial robots in many industries to sustain efficient and

flexible manufacturing.

Mark Venables

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