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IFR’s Latest World Robotics Report - Skyrocketing Growth

This year's World Robotics report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) shows an all-time high of more than half a million industrial robots installed in one year, surpassing the pre-pandemic robot installation record. In terms of volume, the number of operational robots across the world also hit a new record of around 3.5 million units.  

Inkwood Research market data shows that articulated robots accounted for around 63% of the total industrial robot market value. These robots are very much preferred by the automotive industry since they can perform a wide range of tasks, such as welding, painting, and material handling. SCARA and cartesian robots each contributed 13% and 15% shares to the market (respectively), with SCARA robots predicted to grow slightly faster than the average pace. Cylindrical robots are taking up a small space of the market, accounting for 5% of the total sales.  

Asia remained the world’s largest industrial robot market 

74% of all newly deployed robots in 2021 were installed in Asia, a slight increase by 4% from the year 2020. Three of the top five markets for industrial robots are in Asia, with China as the largest market, leading ahead of any other country across the world. Every other robot installation in 2021 happened in China. The country's adoption rate surged by 51%, totaling 268,195 units of industrial robots installed in the country. Japan and South Korea are two other major forces in Asia, although the latter remained rather steady, with 2% growth in 2021, while Japan’s growth was up to 22%.  

Top five markets with the highest installations of industrial robots 

The top five biggest markets in the world are China, Japan, the US, South Korea, and Germany. Together they accounted for 78% of global industrial robot installations. China accounted for 52% of total installations in 2021. Japan, the US, South Korea, and Germany each contributed 9%, 7%, 6%, and 5% (respectively) to the total installations in 2021.  

Demand from the automotive industry has been declining

The electrical/electronics industry is replacing the automotive industry as the number one customer of industrial robots. With an increase of 24% compared to the previous year, as many as 136,670 robots were installed to run the production of household appliances, semiconductors, solar panels, computers, and many other products within the electronics market. Demand for consumer electronics was actually higher during the Covid-19 pandemic, while the automotive sector suffered from a temporary cease of production as global supply chains were disrupted. But even before the pandemic, the automotive industry's share in total installations had declined continuously for five years in a row, from 34% in 2016 to 23% in 2021. 

The market for service robots 

Service robots are gaining ground in the robotics market. For several years, service robotics has seen its market share increase sharply. In 2021, worldwide sales of professional service robots grew by 37%, with more than 121,000 units sold. The size of the RaaS fleet increased by 125% to reach about 5,200 units.  

2021 growth is certainly massive. The covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly played a role in accelerating the market as many industries turned to robots to cope with labor shortages and to promote hygiene. But the growth is expected to continue even after the pandemic burst. Markets and Markets projected the service robot market to grow from USD 36.2 billion in 2021 to USD 103.3 by 2026, growing at a steady rate of 23.3% CAGR.  

In comparison to industrial robots, service robots have a wider variety in usage by many types of businesses and industries of all sizes, from floor cleaning to chatbots to security inspection. The three industries with the highest demands for service robots are transportation and logistics, hospitality, and medical, with each industry experiencing a significant increase in demand for 2021.  

Mobile robot solutions have become a regular fixture in the transportation and logistics sector, with 45% more units sold in 2021. Sales of AMRs have been growing strongly for many years now and have achieved a level of maturity, although the service robotics industry is still considered as a young and growing industry. The RaaS fleet also experienced a significant bump of 86% in this sector. 

Hospitality robots enjoy growing popularity, generating 85% more sales than the previous year. Robots in this sector are mostly used for food and beverage preparation, mobile guidance, and telepresence.  

Sales of medical robots were up 23%, including surgery robots, robots for rehabilitation and non-invasive therapy, and robots for diagnostics.   

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Sources used: Statzon, IFR