In 2017, the global sales of industrial robots reached the record of 380,550 units, which is an increase of 29% compared to the previous year. The World Robotics Report 2018, published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), found that the largest growth in demand for industrial robots was in China, up by 58%.
The strongest growth sectors last year were the metal industry, up 54%, followed by the electrical/electronics industry, up 27%, and the food industry, up 19%. In terms of sales volume, Asia has the strongest individual markets, with China having installed 138,000 industrial robots in 2017, followed by South Korea with 40,000 and Japan with 38,000.
“The growth of industrial robots continues at an impressive pace worldwide,” said Junji Tsuda, president of the International Federation of Robotics. “Key trends such as digitalisation, simplification and human-robot collaboration will certainly shape the future and drive forward rapid development.”
Real production is becoming increasingly connected with the virtual data world, opening up new possibilities for analysis, according to the report. This way, robots will acquire new skills through learning processes. By working to simplify the handling of robots, in the future it will become easier and faster to program using intuitive procedures.
Such a technology is attractive for both established users and the small and medium sized companies, including those companies looking forward to use it to introduce automation without the need for highly experienced or expert personnel.
The report states that this development also paves the way for the third major robotics trend: collaboration between humans and robots without protective barriers offers new approaches to new flexible production processes.
If the report is right, then the future would see human-robot collaboration supporting the flexible production of small quantities with high complexity.