Industrial robot sales in the UK fell 28% to 1,282 last year, according to the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA).
The decrease was accounted for by a drop in sales to the automotive and components sector. Sales to other sectors showed an increase from 518 to 792.
The largest growth in sales was to the rubber and plastics sector, with around 400 units sold in 1998 – a 44% increase.
The UK has fewer industrial robots per industrial worker than most of its competitor countries. Robot density in 1998 was 19 per 10,000 workers, compared with 42 per 10,000 in the US, 63 in Italy and 88 in Germany.
Robot density in Japan was even higher, at 277 robots per 10,000 workers in 1997. The country accounts for most of the world’s industrial robots, defined as fixed machines which have at least three axes of movement.
Prices of industrial robots are falling. The average cost per unit has dropped from more than £40,000 in 1996 to £34,000 in 1998. Most industrial robots were priced at between £10,000 and £50,000 in 1998.
A recovery in the total industrial robot market is forecast by BARA, which expects a rise in sales to a record 1,890 this year.