Automation by the numbers: Record-breaking year for sales of robots, components

New research puts hard numbers behind the staggering growth of automation in recent months
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) just rolled out new research confirming record growth in the areas of robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor technology for the first half of 2017.

The data jives with the heavy investments we've seen in automation this year by large and mid-sized companies, particularly in ecommerce fulfillment and logistics. Collaborative robots, which work alongside humans in light manufacturing environments, have also been selling well.

For robots overall, A3 found that sales records were set in the areas of order units, order revenue, shipment units, and shipment revenue.

"In total, 19,331 robots valued at approximately $1 billion were sold in North America during the first half of 2017," according to an A3 spokesman, "which is the highest level ever recorded to begin a year." The figures represent dollar growth of 26 percent over 2016.

The research demonstrates the impact the red hot robotics market is having on complementary technology, such as machine vision and motors.

Machine vision, which includes things like smart cameras and lighting systems, enable automated fulfillment centers to pick and place merchandise, for example. The first six months of 2017 saw $1.2 billion in spending on machine vision.

That's a reflection of anxious efforts on the part of retailers to catch up with Amazon, which has the industry's leading logistics capabilities for order fulfillment. Machine vision components markets, in turn, were up 11 percent over the same period in 2016.

The market for actuators, AC drives, and feedback and sensing systems -- the components that allow robots to physically interact with the world around them -- was $1.62 billion, up 14 percent from last year.


Forget hard skills, it's soft skills that are hard to come by

Energy companies invest in lots of technology, but without developing communications and collaboration, they won't optimize the benefits.

Doc.ai launches blockchain-based conversational AI platform for health consumers

Healthcare consumers will be able to discuss pathology results with a machine.

Editorial standards