North American robot orders broke first-quarter records in the period just passed, led by surging applications in spot welding, assembly, and material handling, an industry trade group said today.
Companies took orders for 7,406 robots during the first quarter of 2016, up 7 percent over the same period in 2015, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
The value of those orders was $402 million, thanks mostly to year-over-year growth in the industry sectors of semiconductor and electronics (90 percent), food and consumer goods (82 percent), and plastics and rubber (44 percent). The largest industry for robotic business, automotive, grew just one percent over the first quarter of 2015.
Material handling was one of the fastest-growing applications for robots, rising 6 percent year-over-year. Only spot welding (31 percent) and assembly (15 percent), reported faster growth rates, RIA said.
"As the technology behind robots is evolving, the number of tasks they are able to perform is increasing," RIA President Jeff Burnstein said in a statement. "Today more than ever, robots can handle complex tasks at fast speeds, leading to high productivity for customers. Disruptive innovations like collaborative robots are helping to drive adoption of robotics in new and exciting ways, and that is promising for the future of our industry."
The North American robotics market also saw a record high for robot shipments—the orders it actually fulfilled—with 7,125 robots valued at $448 million. Compared to the same quarter last year, that marked growth of 2 percent in units and 21 percent in dollars.
The statistics show continued momentum for the robotics market after a record year in 2015 that featured shipments of 28,049 robots worth $1.6 billion.