GENEVA, Oct. 21 -- Robot orders in first half of 2003 were up by 26 percent, the highest level ever recorded, according to the 2003 annual World Robotics Survey by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics. The study predicts a 7.4 percent average annual increase in sales in the next three years.
According to the 380-page report, which said 80,000 robots were sold between January and June.
Industrial robots continue to dominate the market, but household use of robots is taking off, according to the report. In 2002, sales of "domestic robots" -- mostly those that mow lawns and clean windows -- rose to 33,000, from 20,000 in 2001.
The total number of robots in use worldwide stands at around 1.4 million, the study said. Robots in Japan -- still the world's most robotized economy as home to about half the 770,000 robots working in factories around the world -- has declined from a peak of 413,000 in 1997, as companies choose not to replace some aging machines.
There are now around 240,000 robots in the European Union, about half in Germany and most of the rest in Italy, France, Britain and Spain. In North America, the figure is 104,000, but the survey said the region outpaced Europe as the biggest growth area, with orders rising 35 percent in the first half of the year. The machines also are making inroads in developing countries like Brazil, Mexico and China, it said.
Most industrial robots are used on assembly lines. But increasingly, companies are using them for other tasks, the report said. There are now about 18,600 "service robots," carrying out tasks from cleaning, handling hazardous waste and even assisting surgeons in operations.
The increases have been fueled by price changes, increased sophistication and reliability, the survey said. A robot sold in 2002 cost a fifth of what a robot with the same performance cost in 1990, the study found.
For more information, visit: www.unece.org