Robots Among Us – The Global Robotics Market Growing Rapidly

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Automation and Robotics

Automation has become essential in many fields of industries. It allows processes to function with increased efficiency and productivity. Industrial automation is a field that deals with the automation of industrial processes and machinery to reinforce manufacturing, material handling, and quality control processes.

Demand for automation is driven by the need to free humans from dirty, dull, or dangerous jobs; to improve quality by eliminating errors; and to cut manufacturing costs by replacing increasingly expensive labor with cheaper machines.

In broad terms, automation can be loosely defined as the use of machines, computer software, and other technologies to perform tasks that are usually done by people. Robotics is one example of technology used in the automation process. 

There are two distinct types of automation: software automation and industrial automation. Software automation is used to perform tasks normally done by people on computers, whereas industrial automation  refers to physical processes that are automated with machines, robots, and special control systems. 

People tend to interchange the terms robotics and automation. Though the two concepts are closely related, they are independent of each other. Robotics is just one way to automate a process, among many other technologies available. Automation can also happen without robots, as in the case of software automation. As such, automation is not the sole purpose of robotics. There are many scenarios where robots are used for other applications, such as telemedicine robots or companion robots for hospital patients. 

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Global Robotics Market Value

Demand for automation has led to the growth of the robotics industry. Although companies can find it challenging to justify the cost of robot installation, in the long run, they will see that the cost of operating these robots is far lower compared to human wages. Robots also improve safety and accuracy. And, of course, robots don’t get sick or tired, and they also don’t spread viruses. Indeed, robots have become essential workers in many industries. 

The 2022 report from the International Robot Federation (IFR) shows an all-time high of more than half a million industrial robots installed in 2021, surpassing the pre-pandemic robot installation record. The overall stock of operational robots across the world also hit a new record of around 3.5 million units.  

Chart of Global Annual Installations of Industrial Robots (IFR)
Source: IFR/ Statzon

The market for service robots also experienced remarkable growth in 2021. Over 120 000 units of service robots were sold in that year, a 37% increase from the previous year. The size of the RaaS (Robot as a Service) fleet also increased by 125% to reach about 5,200 units.  

The robotics industry is still relatively young, but it has delivered fantastic progress. The promise of more innovative and forward-thinking technology in science fiction that we once dreamed about now seems within reach. While companies and scientists are working toward that dream, here are some of the robots that are currently working, interacting, and sharing space with us.   

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Industrial Robots 

Industrial robots are used in manufacturing to perform repetitive tasks. They are often primary forms of machines. They can be stationary or capable of some movements that are automated and programmable.   

MarketsandMarkets reported that the global market for industrial robots was valued at around USD 42.1 billion in 2021. Factors such as increased demand for automation, high cost of human labor, governmental support, and advancement of R&D will push the market value to grow at a CAGR of 12.3%.  

China has been the leading country in the industrial robot market for several years, with a revenue of more than 12 billion USD, accounting for 38% of the market share globally. The Asia-Pacific region is forecasted to have the highest market growth, with China, Japan, and South Korea leading the market in the region.   

Typical industrial robot applications are material handling (including material transfer, machine loading, and unloading), assembling, disassembling, soldering, and welding. Based on those applications, it is expected that automotive, manufacturing, and logistics are the three biggest industries using this technology.   

Fanuc, ABB, KUKA, and Yaskawa are the four major suppliers in the market, accounting for around 56% of the global market share, according to Next Move Strategy Consulting market research report in 2021.   

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Service Robots

IFR categorized robotic technology into two groups in general: industrial robots and service robots. They define service robots as robots that perform services useful to the well-being of humans and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations. 

Although there may be some similarities between industrial and service robots, their primary applications are quite different. Industrial robots are typically designed for manufacturing purposes and for completing hazardous tasks, often with the goal of replacing human workers. Conversely, service robots have a broader range of applications, including healthcare, hospitality, cleaning, and so much more. 

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Collaborative Robots (Cobots)   

In a traditional sense, industrial robots are often considered the least intelligent type of robot since they perform simple and repetitive tasks. They should not be confused with collaborative robots (or cobots for short). Cobots are new inventions for the industrial setting. These robots are engineered to collaborate with human workers in the same workspace. They are smaller than traditional industrial robots but are equipped with advanced sensors that enable them to anticipate human actions and work alongside humans.

Like traditional industrial robots, cobots can also be used for material handling processes. However, the smaller size of these robots combined with more intelligent technology makes it possible for them to perform small parts assembly and even machine tending, a repetitive process that is potentially dangerous when done manually.   

The automotive industry is the largest end-user segment, with a 35% share of the cobot market. Cobots in the automotive industry are used for door panel installation, machine parts loading and unloading, and small parts assembly. The growing need to automate complex manufacturing processes is driving the demand in this segment. Electric and semiconductors, as well as food and beverage, are the other two industries where cobots are commonly used.   

Statzon aggregate data estimated the global collaborative robot market value at around 1.2 billion USD in 2021 with a sales volume of 32,200 units. The market is expected to grow in the future with a CAGR of +40% 

Manufacturing companies in North America were the early adopters of cobots and currently dominate the global market with a hold of 33% of the market share. Asia Pacific is also the fastest-growing region with India expected to have the most rapid growth. 

There are more than fifty cobot manufacturers globally, but only a small number have so far deployed cobots on any meaningful level of scale. Denmark-based Universal Robots is the clear market leader with a 47 % market share. Techman Robotics, FANUC, and Rethink Robotic hold less than 10% of the market share each.   

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Mobile Robots

Moving materials around factory settings is burdensome and time-consuming when done manually. So why use employees for this task when it can be automated using the help of robots such as AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle), AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robots), and AMMR (Autonomous Mobile Manipulation Robot)?  

AGV is the most simple machine out of the three. It can only work on a fixed route guided by wire or magnetic markers. Changing or disrupting the routes can be costly and complicated.   

AMR has a more intelligent navigation system. It creates maps within its software, recognizes obstacles, and can plan movements to avoid them.  

The more sophisticated form of AMR is AMMR. It is an AMR machine with an arm for autonomous grasping and picking. Instead of just transporting items, AMMR can autonomously load and unload the items and even place them on designated shelves.     

Mobile robots have one of the fastest-growing markets in the robotic industry with a CAGR of 21%, based on a report from Next Move Strategy Consulting. The market value is estimated at around 10 Billion USD in 2020 and is predicted to reach 72.5 billion USD by 2030. These robots are most prominent in the USA, but countries in Asia are showing fascinating market growth, with Japan leading the region. 

Logistics and warehouses are the most common settings for mobile robots but these robots can also be found in education, entertainment, and even military settings. Mobile robots are utilized to transport material, carry heavy objects, clean floors, and perform many other tasks. In military settings, mobile robots are deployed for combat scenarios.  In residential settings, mobile robots penetrate in the form of vacuum robots.  

A trend to employ mobile robots in delivery services has been growing in recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic has especially pushed the need for delivery automation to the forefront due to labor crisis and a new preference for contactless transactions. Electric mobile robots equipped with sensors, computer vision navigation, AI, and machine learning are now being used as delivery robots. These robots can map their environment accurately, avoid obstacles, and identify the shortest and fastest routes.

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Medical Robots

Robotics technology originally created to automate processes in the manufacturing industry but through the years, its purpose has become more specialized and spread to other sectors such as agriculture, transportation, military, household goods, and healthcare. 

Robots for medical use have been around for several decades now, changing how surgeries are performed. Robot-assisted surgery is often mentioned as the new revolution in surgical processes. It helps surgeons to perform complex procedures with more precision and control. This type of surgery is usually used in minimally invasive surgery, where tiny and precise incisions are needed. However, surgery robots can also be used to perform open surgery.   

Next Move Strategy Consulting estimated the market size for medical robots to be around USD 10. 8 billion in 2021. The emerging trend is expected to continue with a CAGR of +17.1% until 2030. Innovations in the industry are expected to reduce the cost of the systems over the coming years. Thus, market penetration is expected to increase.   

The leading companies in robotic surgery are, among others, Medtronic, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Smith & Nephew, and Intuitive Surgical.   

The use of robotics in healthcare and medicine extends far beyond the operating room. During the last few decades, there have been increased uses of medical robots to perform a growing number of health tasks. Rehabilitation robots support people with bodily dysfunction to enable movements. Telemedicine robots enable health practitioners to see, hear and speak with patients remotely as if they were at their bedside. Pharmacy robots dispense medicine, disinfect rooms, and handle storing, filling, and labeling of prescriptions. And those are just some types of medical robots available today among many others. 

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Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are two different entirely different fields. Robotics is the creation of robots or a set of machines to perform a mechanical task. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science trying to replicate human thought processes.  No doubt that AI is probably the most exciting field in robotics. The ultimate combination of robotics and AI would be for robots to be able to think independently. But the robotics field is still far from this ultimate goal.  

Although robots are often displayed as intelligent beings in science fiction, in reality, most robots we have right now are not equipped with AI or equipped with only limited autonomous functions. According to IFR, AI is still in its infancy in real-world applications of robotics.  

The main aim of using AI in robotics is better to manage variability and unpredictability in the external environment. This helps robots function properly in public environments or in logistic or manufacturing settings with ever-changing product orders. Integrating AI and robotics in industrial settings leads to higher productivity and reduced programming time. The market for AI robots is mostly driven by the surging demands for this technology in the industrial, automotive, retail, and healthcare sectors. 

Apollo Research estimated the global market value for AI robots to be around USD 4.1 billion in 2022. This number is expected to reach USD 52.6 billion by 2032, registering a 29.7% CAGR.  

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Sources: Statzon's global robotics data

Robotics market guide: The ultimate guide to the ever-evolving robotics market

Statzon's Handbook of Robotics is your ultimate guide to understanding the ever-evolving robotics market and its impact on various industries worldwide. Robotics has been one of the fastest-growing industries in recent years, transforming how we live and work. From manufacturing and healthcare to agriculture and retail, robots are changing the face of businesses and revolutionizing how we approach various tasks. With so much potential and opportunity, staying up to date with the latest trends and insights in the global robot market is essential.

This handbook provides a comprehensive market overview, including key players, emerging technologies, and prospects. 

Download the handbook

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