The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for robots in key industry sectors including medical, logistics and retail.
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) robot sales have been soaring across the board, with strong demand for service robots.
In its latest report, the Germany-based IFR says the sales value of professional service robots increased by 32% to US$11.2 billion worldwide between 2018 and 2019.
And sales of medical robotics accounted for 47% of the total service robot value turnover in 2019, driven mainly by robotic-assisted surgical systems.
The IFR predicts medical robot sales could more than double by 2022, reaching US$11.3 billion.
The organisation published its full research in the latest World Robotics 2020 – Service Robots” report.
Logistics market on the rise
The market value of logistics robots sold or leased more than doubled (110%), to US$1.9 billion, the IFR reports.
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are now becoming an integral part of smart factories across the globe.
The IFR predicts continued strong turnover growth of 40% or more per year across various industry sectors.
“The investment in service robots for logistics in manufacturing processes is amortized rapidly,” says IFR president Milton Guerry.
“Assuming 24-hour operation, the investment in service robots for logistics may be repaid within two to three years, and often much quicker.
“Given a 15-year lifetime, operating costs are around 5% of the annual investment. Highly developed systems often provide operational availability in the 98% plus range.
“We expect sales of both professional and personal service robots will continue to increase strongly.”
The IFR says booming sales of warehouse logistics robots has been strongly driven by major e-commerce companies.
And the IFR predicts continued strong growth of professional service robots in hospitals to help streamline logistics.
Strong growth in home robot sales
Sales of household robots are also on the rise, the IFR reports.
This includes vacuuming and floor cleaning robots, social and entertainment robots and robo lawn mowers.
Last year, the total number of service robots for personal and domestic use increased by 34% to more than 23.2 million units, valued at US$5.7 billion.
The IFR also predicts a continuing increase in sales of companion and assistive robots for the elderly or people with disabilities.
Last year, the estimated sales value increased by 17% to US$91 million.
Moderate growth in field robotics
The IFR reports moderate growth in the field robotics segment, including agriculture, dairy, livestock farming, and other applications. Sales value increased modestly by 3% to US$1.3 billion.
However, the organisation predicts an increase of up to 30% in sales due to labour shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes Australia with travel restrictions on overseas workers who are usually employed during the harvest season.