Going Robo: North American Robotics Industry Shows Continued Growth

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North American robotics companies sold more than 14,000 robots valued at $788 million in the first half of 2014, a year-over-year increase of 30 percent in units and 16 percent in revenue, says a recent report from the Ann Arbor-based Robotic Industries Association.

In line with the North American robotics market growing an average of 26 percent each year since 2010, the country’s unemployment rate has continued to drop, says Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA, the industry’s trade association.

“In 2010, after one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, unemployment in the U.S. was nearing 10 percent,” Burnstein says. “Since then, amidst record years for robot sales, unemployment has steadily fallen toward pre-recessionary levels. The unemployment rate reached 6.1 percent in June of this year, the lowest it has been since September of 2008.”

The automotive industry led the market’s growth, with OEM and component industries upping their robotics orders by 36 percent when compared to the first half of 2013. In addition, non-automotive industries — such as semiconductors, life sciences, and food and consumer goods — also grew by 26 percent.

“While the automotive industry continues to be the largest customer for robotics, it’s great to see non-automotive sectors posting strong growth as well,” says Alex Shikany, RIA’s director of market analysis. “This is a very positive sign for the long term health of the industry.”

Nearly 230,000 robots are now at use in the nation’s factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use, according to RIA estimates.

IN OTHER ROBOT NEWS, the department of electrical and computer engineering at Oakland University is in the midst of developing an industrial robotics and automation program.

“We have formed an advisory board so industries can directly provide us expertise and support for curriculum development, program development, and strategic planning,” says Khalid Mirza, visiting assistant professor of engineering at OU.

To support the curriculum, Rochester Hills-based FANUC America — a leading manufacturer of industrial robotics in the world — presented the school on Tuesday with a donation of robots, software, and 2-D iRVision equipment representing an industry value of nearly $475,000.

“We are very excited to have state-of-art equipment to support our Robotics and Automation program labs,” says Louay Chamra, dean of OU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “The donated equipment will be used to educate the next generation of engineers in order to provide the talent needed in industrial robotics and advanced manufacturing.”

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