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Industrial robots break records in 2017

It’s been a record-breaking year for the industrial robotics sector, according to figures released by the Association for Advancing Automation, or A3. 

In the first nine months of 2017, at least 27,294 orders of robots valued at approximately $1.473 billion were sold in North America, says A3.

This is the “highest level ever recorded in any other year during the same time period”, says the organisation. 

These figures represent growth of 14 per cent in units and 10 per cent in dollars during the first nine months of 2016.

Automotive-related orders are up 11 per cent in units and 10 per cent in dollars, while non-automotive orders are up 20 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.


For shipments, 25,936 robots valued at $1.496 billion were shipped in North America during the first nine months.

These record high quantities represent growth of 18 per cent in units and 13 per cent in dollars over what sold in 2016.

Automotive-related shipments also grew 12 per cent in units and 9 per cent in dollars during that time, with non-automotive shipments increasing by 32 per cent and 22 per cent for units and dollars, respectively.

A3 says the hottest industries were:

  • metals (54 per cent);
  • automotive components (42 per cent); and
  • food and consumer goods (21 per cent).

Motion control and motors

Total motion control shipments increased by 10 per cent to $2.6 billion, marking the industry’s best nine-month mark since these figures began being tracked.

The largest product category is motors (38 per cent of shipments), followed by actuators and mechanical systems (18 per cent of shipments), and electronic drives (17 per cent of shipments).

The fastest growing categories in the first nine months of 2017 were:

  • motion controllers (24 per cent to $147m);
  • sensors and feedback devices (20 per cent to $116m);
  • AC drives (15 per cent to $295m);
  • actuators and mechanical systems (13 per cent to $479m); and
  • motors (11 per cent to $1 billion).

The majority of suppliers believe that order and shipment volumes will increase in the next six months, with most distributors feeling that orders and shipments will be flat in the same time period.

Vision and imaging

The North American machine vision market continued its best start to a year ever in 2017, with growth of 14 per cent overall to $1.937 billion, 14 per cent in systems to $1.657 billion, and 14 per cent in components to $271 million.

Each of those three categories set new records in the first nine months of this year, and every individual product category experienced positive year-over-year growth for the same period last year.

Some notable growth rates were:

  • smart cameras (21 per cent to $295 million);
  • lighting (20 per cent to $54m);
  • software (16 per cent to $15m); and
  • component cameras (14 per cent to $143 million).

Experts believe lighting, optics, imaging boards, and software will trend up, while camera sales will remain flat in the next six months.

Additionally, expectations are for application-specific machine vision systems to increase and smart cameras to remain flat over the same time period.

The US manufacturing sector expanded in the second quarter and is expected to remain strong through the end of the year.

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