Rapid growth in robotics market affecting all sectors

The industrial robotics market is expected to be worth $71.7 billion by 2023, according to new research. The rapid growth is affecting markets across the board, from automotive and electronics to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Here, Graham Mackrell, managing director of robot gearing specialist Harmonic Drive UK, looks at the drivers and what businesses can expect to see in the coming years.

The research, from business intelligence firm MarketsandMarkets, shows that the industrial robotics market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6 per cent in the next six years. Although the highest demand is for articulated robots, other types including cartesian, parallel and collaborative are also growing rapidly.

The main drivers for this growth come from two sources: increased investment in automation in a growing number of industries, and rising demand from small and medium sized businesses in developing countries.

Automation in the food and beverage sector, for example, has seen the increased use of robots in pick and place applications where advancing gripper technology, combined with improvements in motors, gears, sensors and artificial intelligence software, means that robots can carefully handle food items such as lettuce heads of various sizes.

Shrinking product lifecycles in the consumer electronics market is also driving growth for desktop collaborative robots in the small-parts assembly sector. Devices such as phones, tablets, wearable fitness trackers and smart watches that used to be updated once every few years now have regular 12-monthly cycles. As a result, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) now have to start production planning for future products as soon as the current model is launched.

In terms of the global market, the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is expected to own the highest share of the robotics market over the next decade. This can be attributed to various factors that drive down the cost of production, including lower wages, a closer proximity to raw materials, a less stringent taxation environment and economies of scale. We can expect to see strong demand from countries including China, Korea and India.

Although the future looks bright, the demand is causing stress on supply chains now. According to figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) every member of the G7 countries has seen productivity suffer since the 2008 financial crisis, with the UK being affected twice as hard. Countries like Germany, USA and France are leading the way in terms of output per hour worked.

At Harmonic Drive, we have also seen a surge in demand for our high precision gears as a result of the demand for robots. The six elements of our precision gears — zero backlash, accuracy, repeatability, high torque, compactness and low weight — make them ideal for increasingly high precision automation environments.

To meet this demand, we've increased investment in our manufacturing setups and are continuously looking at making improvements to our facilities so that we can deliver customer orders even faster, whether that means improving process efficiency or tweaking the layout of our plants.

As the market continues to grow, OEMs and business leaders need to refocus their efforts and gear up to meet the demands of the robotics market.

For more information on gears for robot applications, visit the website or call a Harmonic Drive representative on +44 (0) 1785 245190.

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