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Strongest Year Ever for Robots in North America

North American companies ordered more than 27,000 robots last year, says industry group—a 28-percent increase over the prior year.

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This robot cell used by an oil-industry manufacturer produces various parts in batch sizes of less than 100. Read more.

“This is an extremely exciting time to be involved in the robotics industry,” says Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). His group reports that 2014 was the strongest year yet for robot demand in North America, with 27,685 robots valued at $1.6 billion ordered from North American companies. That was an increase of 28 percent in units and 19 percent in dollars over 2013.

The most significant industry driving this demand is automotive manufacturing, which increased its orders for robots by 45 percent over 2013. The most important application is arc welding or spot welding, each of which increased its demand for robots by around 57 percent over the previous year.

My own observations suggest that machine tending for unattended CNC machining—in many industries, not just automotive—must also be feeding the robot demand. And perhaps in 2015 this application will feed it to an even greater extent. Most shops I’ve spoken with lately are at least seriously considering an investment in robotic automation. One shop owner recently told me that his lender is more inclined to provide financing if the capital investment aims at lights-out machining. He is liable to buy a robot with his next new VMC for this reason.

Read more detail about robot demand in the RIA report. And for more on robots, robot-related products and successful applications of robotic automation in machining, visit our Robots & Automation Zone.

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