Global demand for robots is forecast to increase nearly 11% per year through 2016 to $20.2 billion, outpacing both the world’s economy and overall manufacturing activity, according to a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc. In developed countries, which tend to have higher labor costs, robots are often used to replace human workers. In developing countries, which conversely usually have an abundance of low-cost labor, robot use is more concentrated in tasks that are difficult or dangerous for human workers. However, as wages rise in developing countries, the use of robots to replace human workers will increase, especially as advantages in end product quality and worker safety become more apparent.
The world robot market is segmented into two broad categories: industrial robots and service robots. The industrial sector has been a significant user of robots for a few decades now, while the service sector has only become significant since the middle of the first decade of the 2000s. Through 2016 and beyond, service robots will lead growth as lower costs and the increasing sophistication of robot technology and software make these products more appealing to a broader range of consumers. Professional applications will continue to dominate the service robot market, with medical robots leading gains, particularly in developed countries.
Five countries—the U.S., Japan, Germany, China, and South Korea—combined to account for 68% of the $12.3 billion global robot market in 2011, and will continue to dominate the overall market through the next decade. The U.S. will remain the largest national market, while China will become the second largest market by 2016.
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