New orders received by North American based robotics companies fell 38 percent in the first half of 2006, according to statistics released by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
Most of the losses occurred as a result of the cyclical downturn in robot sales to the automotive industry, where new orders were down 52 percent.
However, sales to non-automotive companies fell just five percent, and actually showed increases in food & consumer goods, life sciences/pharmaceutical/biomedical, and general industry.
Overall, non-automotive robot sales accounted for 45 percent of the new orders through June, up from 29 percent midway through 2005.
‘‘The long term success of the robotics industry depends upon growth in non-automotive markets, so we’re encouraged by the relatively good results, especially when you consider that 2005 was the best year ever for North American robot sales,’‘ said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of RIA.
Vincent said that while most application areas showed declines through June, 33 percent growth was recorded in new orders for assembly robots as well as for material removal robots. ‘‘Since assembly robots are used primarily in non-automotive applications, this is further evidence of continued penetration into new areas for robotics,’‘ Vincent noted.
A total of 6,607 robots valued at $473.5 million were ordered by North American companies through June. When orders from companies outside North America are included, total sales for North American robot suppliers totaled 7,141 robots valued at $501.4 million. The totals represent a decline of 37 percent in units and 26 percent in revenue.
Vincent said RIA thinks the sharp decline in overall robot orders may continue for a while as the automotive industry digests its large purchases made in the last few years. ‘‘In addition, continued economic difficulties in the automotive industry are likely to slow their investments in new technologies, not just robotics,’‘ he explained.
RIA estimates that some 162,000 robots are now installed in American factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use.