In this blog, we’ll examine some of the results of the International Federation of Robotics’ 2013 report, “World Robotics: Service Robots 2013.” In a previous blog, we looked at the IRF’s report on industrial robots, “World Robotics: Industrial Robots 2013.”
Their unit numbers may be a lot smaller, but unlike industrial robots, which suffered a slight overall slump in 2012, service robots continue to be increasingly in demand. That increase in units was only 2%, but it beats the overall 4% decline suffered by industrial robots during the same period. The IRF study distinguished between professional service robots and those aimed at domestic and personal use. The vast majority of service robots are professional ones.
By far the biggest use for professional service robots sold in 2012 was in defense at 40%, the same proportion as in 2011. Of those, the biggest increase was in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at 8%. As in 2011, the second-largest category of professional service robots in 2012 was “field” or agricultural robots, such as automated milking systems. These increased slightly from 31% to 33% of the total units, and account for about 25% of the total value of professional service robot sales.
Medical robot sales increased the largest amount, by 20%, with about 8% of units sold. The largest increase was in robots that provide therapy and surgery assistance, growing by 6%. Medical robots are high-value systems, and accounted for 44% of the total sales value of professional service robots, with an average unit price of about $1.5 million.
About 9% of the total sales of professional service robots in 2012 were of robotic logistical systems, such as courier systems and automatic guided vehicles for factories, down from 13% in 2011. These grew by 11%. Other categories with lower unit sales include construction and demolition systems; professional cleaning, inspection, and maintenance robots; robots used for rescue and security; mobile robot platforms; and underwater robotic systems. This last group represents one of the most expensive professional service robot types at a unit price of about $1 million each.
Between 2013 and 2016, the IRF expects sales of professional robots to increase to 94,800. About 28,000 of these will be defense robots, with automated milking systems not far behind at 24,500. Together, these two groups make up 55% of the total forecast of service robots.
Robots targeting the mass market, such as those that vacuum your floor or do yard work, have a much lower per-unit cost than professional types, and are sold in far fewer numbers. Most service robots for personal and domestic use are still found mainly in house and yard work, and for entertainment and leisure, such as education and research bots, toys, and hobby systems.
Also classed here are what some may think of as medical or health care robots, but these technology-dense machines are designed for personal use, such as those assisting the handicapped or elderly. Unit sales increased very slightly, from 156 to 159 in 2012. The IRF expects this category to grow dramatically, though, due to intensive R&D programs being conducted in several countries at the national level. Also due to rise are robots that perform home security and surveillance, which have already increased unit numbers by 53% from 2011.
Robots sold for entertainment and leisure increased by 29% over units sold in 2011. Although many of these are relatively inexpensive toys, these are getting more sophisticated. For example, the study cites the LEGO Mindstorms as an example of the higher-cost versions.
Between 2013 and 2016, the IRF projects that sales of all types of household robots used for domestic tasks will rise to almost 15.5 million units, an increase of more than seven times the current numbers. Robots used for entertainment and leisure will grow too, but not nearly as dramatically: toy robots and hobby systems will increase to about 3.5 million units, education and research robots will increase to about 3 million, and robots sold for elderly and handicap assistance will grow to about 6,400.
Source: Design News