Boom in robot investment

By 2003 there will be nearly 900,000 multi-purpose robots in use worldwide, according to a survey published by the United Nations Economic Commission.

By 2003 there will be nearly 900,000 multi-purpose robots in use worldwide, according to a survey published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in co-operation with the International Federation of Robotics.

The scene was set between 1998 and 1999, when the world market for industrial robots increased by 15 per cent, mainly as a result of a sharp upturn in sales in the United States and the European Union. The highest growth was recorded in France with almost 90 per cent over the 1998 level. ‘Never before have the European Union and the United States invested in so many industrial robots in a single year,’ said Mike Wilson of Meta Vision Systems, chairman of the International Federation of Robotics. ‘Since 1994, annual robot investment has doubled.’

Activity in the Far East is slower according to the survey. After a small decline the previous year, there was hesitant recovery in Japan where the investment climate for automation equipment is still depressed. Even allowing for a surge of 70 per cent in investment in the Republic of Korea, overall sales in the region are still less than half of the record levels achieved in 1995-1997, before the Asian economic crisis.

The year 2000 shows an annual growth rate of 12 per cent, with Europe now heading the investment league. The gap between robot usage in EC countries compared with Japan and the USA is narrowing.

Growth in robot investment has been spurred by plummeting robot prices and radically improved performance. The price of an average robot in 1999 was one fifth the 1990 cost of an equivalent robot. Consequently it is usual these days to hear of payback times of one to two years. At the same time the economic life a robot (except in car production lines) is from 12 to 16 years, so the competitiveness of robot users is significantly enhanced.

International Federation of RobotsTel: +46 8 782 0843