Report: China installing industrial robots at breakneck speed

Robotics are changing manufacturing processes around the world, and China is leading the charge, new data from the International Robotics Federation (IRF) shows.

State-of-the-art manufacturing processes are unthinkable without industrial robots doing part of the workload, whether it’s handling, welding, or assembling, which are the three most common applications of newly installed industrial robots in 2022.

And the IRF data reveals that the operational stock of industrial robots has tripled over the past decade. Four million robots were in use across various industries by the end of 2022 – now, there are even more of them.

A record number of 553,000 industrial robots were newly installed last year, as the global operational stock climbed to 3.9 million by the end of 2022.

The IFR data shows that Asia leads the way in the shift to automated processes, with China in particular installing industrial robots at breakneck speed.

In 2022, the country accounted for more than 50 percent of newly installed industrial robots worldwide, quickly catching up with industry leaders South Korea and Japan, who had the highest density of robots installed per 10,000 workers in the manufacturing industry in 2021.

Four million robots were in use across various industries by the end of 2022. Courtesy of the International Robotics Federation.

Indeed, although China is the largest market for industrial robots in absolute terms and in terms of growth, South Korea and Japan are ahead of China in terms of robot density – the number of installed robots per 10,000 workers.

According to the IFR, South Korea had 1,000 installed robots per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry, compared to 399 for Japan and 322 for China.

Moreover, Japan is also the largest manufacturer of industrial robots, according to the IRF, accounting for 46 percent of global production in 2022.

Global economic growth is experiencing a slowdown as of late. However, the IRF says robot installations are not expected to follow this pattern. On the contrary, the mark of 600,000 units installed per year worldwide is expected to be reached in 2024.

The prevalence of industrial robots is particularly high in countries with strong automotive and electronics sectors, namely Japan, China, South Korea, Germany, and the United States.

Among the newest types of robots, both exoskeletons and collaborative robots are designed to work in close proximity to humans.

While exoskeletons are attached to human bodies to give wearers increased strength, allowing them to carry heavy loads, collaborative robots share a workspace with human workers and help them with tasks that are better suited for robots, such as assembly or quality inspection.

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