Robot orders strong in first nine months

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ANN ARBOR, MICH. (Nov. 14, 1:50 p.m. ET) — Orders for industrial robots were up 41 percent through the first nine months of 2011 — as North America-based robot companies are on target for one of their best years ever, according to the Robotic Industries Association.

“In the first nine months of the year the industry has received orders for more robots than in all of 2010, which was also a very good year,” said RIA President Jeff Burnstein.

A total of 13,616 robots, valued at $848.5 million, were ordered in the first nine months by companies in North America. When companies outside of North America are included, the totals are 15,683 robots, valued at $968 million.

RIA said automakers and their suppliers are the biggest customers, accounting for 53 percent of all new orders. Sales to the automotive segment rose 56 percent through September.

“The tier suppliers to the automotive OEMs have really accelerated their purchases this year, with orders jumping 84 percent,” Burnstein said.

In non-automotive segments, orders are up 28 percent in the first nine months, led by metalworking and general industrial applications.

The biggest gains so far in 2011 have been in assembly, coating and dispensing, arc welding, spot welding and material handling.

Ann Arbor-based RIA estimates 210,000 robots are now in use in U.S. factories. The U.S. is second only to Japan in total robot use.