Industrial Robot Sales Bounce Back From Asian Punch

Orders for industrial robots rose by more than one-third in the first half of 1999 compared with the same period last year, spurred by booming demand from carmakers in the U.S. and Europe. But orders from Asia, including Japan -- the world's biggest robot user -- were stagnant after sharply falling sales last year. A report jointly compiled by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the Stockholm-based International Federation of Robotics attributes the overall drop in sales of 16% last year (to 71,000 units from 85,000 in 1997) to the Asian slump. Not counting Asia, the rest of the world experienced a 16% rise in robot installations in 1998. The report predicts continued recovery in sales of industrial robots over the next three years, with installations in Japan, the U.S., and Europe rising by about 8% to 97,000 in 2002. Japan accounts for 57% of the world's operational robots, followed by the U.S. with 11% and Germany with 10%. Increasingly widespread use of domestic service robots that operate as vacuum cleaners or lawn mowers is predicted. By 2002 up to 450,000 vacuum-cleaning robots could be at work with 29,000 others performing tasks from fire-fighting and surgery to acting as museum guides.

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