Global demand for robots broken down by region shows Asia market growing fastest followed by Europe. (Source: BCC Research)
Robotics is breaking out of the niche markets it had been shunted too, promising to grow to $30 billion by 2016. The significant uptick is mainly due to explosive growth in commercially viable professional service, military, and security robots, in addition to its tradition strengths in manufacturing, medicine, surgery, planetary exploration, and the handling of hazardous materials.
The global market for robots experienced great hype during the first decade of the new millennium, but was hit hard by the recession which flattened its growth before 2009. However, by 2010 robots were back on track and are expected to continue healthy growth through 2016, according to BCC Research.
As a sub-field of automation, robotics integrates many different disciplines all aimed at providing devices that can perform tasks that are too tedious, dangerous, or which require more precision than the typical human can perform. Most robots work in industrial settings performing highly specialized jobs, but a new breed of domestic, professional, and security robots are opening the door to a new era of smarter robots that can handle open environments and less precise instructions. For instance, search-and-rescue robots perform many of the same tasks as warehouse robots, but in an unstructured environment where navigation and task execution are more open ended.
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) explains the recent surge in robotics as partially due to pent-up demand that occurred when industries delayed buying new robots or and replacing old ones until the recession receded. However, an analysis by BCC Research of new patents filed led the firm to predict rapid growth in new types of robots. BCC also reports that venture capital, which dried up during the recession, has recently rebounded allowing many new startups to break ground in 2011.
Robotics in now growing in diverse markets, according to BCC, including aerospace, automotive, chemical, construction, defense-related, electronics, food processing, home care, medicine, pharmaceutical, and textile and clothing manufacturing industries.
In 2011, robotics will grow to nearly $22 billion, according to BCC Research. The firm predicts a five-year compound annual growth rate of 6.7 percent out to 2016 when it will top $30 billion. When broken down by region, Europe shows the fastest growth rate, starting at $4.9 billion in 2011, but growing at a 9.6 percent rate to $7 billion by 2016. Asia shows the second fastest growth rate, starting at $7.7 billion in 2011, but growing at a 7.2 percent rate to nearly $11 billion by 2016. North American, where industrial robots are already commonplace, the growth rate is predicted to be a scant 2.7 percent, starting at $4.9 billion in 2011, and growing to $5.6 billion by 2016.