North American robotics companies sold more robots in 2011 than ever before, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association ( RIA , the industry’s trade group.

A total of 19,337 robots valued at $1.17 billion were sold to companies in North America, beating the previous record of 18,228 robots sold in 2005.  When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 22,126 robots valued at $1.35 billion.

Compared to 2010, North American orders were up 47% in units and 38% in dollars.  Helping fuel the increase was revitalized demand by the automotive industry.

In terms of applications, big increases were seen in a number of segments including material handling (+30%).

The fourth quarter of 2011 was the strongest quarter ever recorded by RIA (the association began reporting data in 1984) in terms of units ordered with 5,721 robots valued at $317.5 million.  The fourth quarter was up 61% in units and 40% in dollars over the same period in 2010.

“The growing interest in automation combined with the strengthening of North American manufacturing industries, particularly automotive, contributed to a great year for the robotics industry,”

“We sensed this early in the year when we had a very strong Automate 2011 show in Chicago in March,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA.  “Current users were telling us they were looking to purchase more robots, vision systems and related products and people who had never purchased a robot were showing strong interest in near-term purchases,” Burnstein added.

“Robot suppliers and integrators told us they were running full-out to meet customer demand and one of the limiting factors was a shortage of qualified application engineers and other technical people needed to develop and integrate new applications,” Burnstein noted.

200,000+ robots working in the U.S.

RIA estimates that some 213,000 robots are now at use in United States factories, placing the U.S. second only to Japan in robot use.  “Many observers believe that only about 10% of the US companies that could benefit from robots have installed any so far,” Burnstein said.

Founded in 1974, RIA represents some 265 companies, including leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms.  RIA’s quarterly statistics report is based on data supplied by member companies representing an estimated 90% of the North American market.   What will 2012 hold?  Burnstein said RIA does not make robotics sales forecasts but he believes that if the economy remains strong we should be looking at another good year for the robotics industry.

“Companies in every industry are now recognizing more than ever before that robotics provide unique benefits in terms of  improved quality, productivity, flexibility, time to market, and overall cost savings,” said Burnstein.  “We believe the future for robotics is very bright.”

For more information on RIA and the robotics industry, visitwww.robotics.orgor call RIA at 734-994-6088.