There seems to be no ebb in the demand for industrial robots with Arturo Baroncelli, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) disclosing that more than 200,000 industrial robots will be installed in 2014 worldwide, 15% more than in 2013.
According to a IFR report, the high volume of industrial robot orders will continue to come from the automotive industry. Usually, investments of the automotive industry are cyclical; however, since 2010, investments have been on the rise without a considerable cyclical effect. This outstanding development will continue also in 2014 and beyond.
However, robot supply could slow down in certain markets. The electrical/electronics industry is increasing robot investments in production automation as well as in retooling for new production processes. A further increase of robot orders from other industries is also likely, particularly from the rubber and plastics industry, pharmaceutical industry, the food and beverage industry, and the metal and machinery industry.
The report says that major growth of about 21% is expected in Asia in 2014, particularly in China and Taiwan, in Korea and in most of the other Southeast Asian markets. Robot sales to the Americas will increase by 11% in 2014 driven by the increasing demand in North America and Brazil. Robot installations in Europe are estimated to rise by 6% (particularly the German market is expected to have further growth). Sales in other Western European countries are expected to stagnate, or even increase in 2014 despite the worsening economic conditions in various countries.
Between 2015 and 2017, robot sales are estimated to increase by about 6% in the Americas as well as in Europe, and about 16% in Asia/Australia on average per year, intones IFR. At the end of 2017, it is estimated that about 2 million industrial robots will be installed in factories worldwide.
Significantly sales of industrial robots will gain considerable momentum in the coming years in China. In 2014, it is estimated that sales will increase to about 50,000 units. From 2015 to 2017, an increase of at least 25% on average per year is possible, to about 100,000 units in 2017. By 2017, more than 400,000 industrial robots will be installed in the factories of China.
With more and more Chinese robot suppliers entering the market, IFR predicts that the competition between foreign and Chinese robot suppliers is deemed to increase. The Chinese market offers huge potentials for installation of various kinds of robots in the coming years.
Breakthrough advancements and innovative technological developments in industrial manufacturing have caused a substantial increase in the number of robot installations during the past four years especially in the automotive industry.
In his special feature on the future challenges in robotics for the automotive industry, Dr. Stefan Markus Baginski, BMW, sees still a wide range of opportunities for using even more robots in the automotive manufacturing. Capabilities of both PLCs and Robot Controllers are not yet exploited to their full potential: “Especially if we look at how extensively our mobile devices are linked together with the telephone network, social platforms and cloud services. All these efforts are to create a better service for us and make our life much more convenient. To adapt this to a fleet of robots is one of the challenges of the future. Imagine how much energy, maintenance effort, space and hardware we could save if, for example, the robot controller were just a cloud service to which all robots were connected to keep their individual program running.”
Baginski believes that this also influences another important topic which is the necessary effort to learn how to program and use a robot. This still requires a lot of training and expertise. Each robot supplier has its own programming language etc. He sees a chance in the first developments of open standards as for PLCs. Also the advanced human robot cooperation, which allows direct interaction between humans and robots, is just in the beginning stages and will open up new possibilities for the use of robots in automotive manufacturing.
The IFR reports also says that there is a new market arising from the growth of electro-mobility and the need for stationary energy storage for the buffering volatile renewable energies in power grids: High-power batteries.
High-power battery production is more complex than the common consumer-type batteries on the market today. High precision, high quality and the increase of productivity are keys to success here too, which requires automation and thus robots. For electro-mobility, battery changing stations are discussed as an alternative to battery loading stations. This could be another attractive future market for robots, asserts the IFR report.
Excerpts from IFR. Image courtesy of KUKA