Robot Sales in North America Jump 67% in Q2

According to the Association for Advancing Automation in Ann Arbor, robot orders were up 67 percent in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, showing a return to pre-COVID-19 demand for automation as manufacturers and others return to work.
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A UR10e from Universal Robots with a welding application, one of many potential uses for the robotic arm. // Courtesy of Universal Robots
A UR10e from Universal Robots with a welding application, one of many potential uses for the robotic arm. // Courtesy of Universal Robots

According to the Association for Advancing Automation in Ann Arbor, robot orders were up 67 percent in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, showing a return to pre-COVID-19 demand for automation as manufacturers and others return to work.

North American companies ordered 9,853 robots valued at $501 million in 2021s second quarter. The second quarter of 2020 was the peak of the pandemic, where companies only ordered 5,196 robots.

“With the big increases in automation sales and favorable economic conditions in U.S. manufacturing sector throughout much of 2021, it’s clear users have accelerated their orders for robotics and other forms of advanced technologies,” says Jeff Burnstein, president of A3.

“While companies have long realized that automation increases efficiencies, expands production and empowers human employees to do more valuable tasks, the pandemic helped even more industries realize those benefits.”

Five industries showed an increase in robot orders above 50 percent. The metals industry increased its orders 99 percent, with the next closest being the automotive components industry, which was up 85 percent. Semiconductor and electronics/photonics companies increased orders 62 percent.

Plastics and rubber along with food and consumer goods companies both increased orders by 51 percent. Automotive OEMs came in one point shy of the 50 percent mark at 49. Rounding out the industries with notable increases were the life sciences, pharmaceutical, and biomed industries, which grouped together were up 21 percent.

In addition to the large increase in robotic orders, the machine vision, motion control, and motor markets saw record increases over the second quarter of 2020. The report shows the machine vision market — imaging-based automatic inspection an analysis for industrial purposes — grew 26 percent to $764 million.

The motion control and motors sector — which encompasses a range of components that control sequences of motion — recorded more than $1 billion in shipments, 13 percent greater than 2020 sales.

In the biomedical field, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor recently received a  $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Health to develop a new type of powered exoskeleton for lower limbs.The team plans to develop a modular, powered exoskeleton system that could be used on one or more joints of the leg. The powered exoskeleton is an effort to bring robotic assistance to workers, the elderly, and others with disabilities.

Universal Robots in Ann Arbor provides a large variety of collaborative robots — what it calls cobots—that can help alleviate the pains of companies struggling with labor shortages. The UR10e is a single-arm robot with applications that can support a total payload of 27.5 pounds.

“The revitalization of automation we’re seeing across myriad industries is extremely encouraging,” says Burnstein. “Not only will the increase in automation use be a win for our member companies, but it will also help the U.S. economy grow even more as customers increase productivity and fill the millions of manufacturing jobs that remain unfulfilled.”

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