Robotics and automation stay on growth path

Robotics and automation are the global drivers for modernising economies. After a very successful year 2017 with a turnover growth of 13 percent, the companies from Germany expect good business again this year. VDMA Robotics + Automation forecasts the sector to grow by nine percent in 2018 reaching a sales volume of 15.8 billion euros.

"Our expectations for 2017 were clearly exceeded. Robotics and automation are in excellent shape at the start of automatica 2018," said Dr. Norbert Stein, Chairman of the Board of VDMA Robotics + Automation, at the main press conference of the trade fair in Munich. "For 2018, we expect industry sales to increase by nine percent reaching a level of 15.8 billion euros”.

Exports increase significantly

The main growth driver in 2017 was exports - especially to Asia. Export sales to China grew by around 60 percent compared to 2016, significantly strengthening China's position as the most important market for robotics and automation. Large investments in automation by the electronics industry generated strong demand here. Exports to all other Asian countries also grew at an above-average rate of around 20 percent. In addition, dynamic growth continued in North America. Exports to the other European countries increased only moderately - but still accounted for the largest share within the regions. The export ratio rose from 57 percent (2016) to 60 percent (2017).

Development in the sub-sectors

Of the three sub-sectors of robotics and automation, machine vision developed particularly dynamically in 2017. As "eyes of the machine", these systems ensure perfect quality in production. Global sales of machine vision from Germany rose by 17 percent to 2.6 billion euros in 2017. The largest sub-sector, Integrated Assembly Solutions (components and systems for assembly and handling), increased its sales by 9 percent to 7.6 billion euros in 2017. German robotics closed the year 2017 extremely successfully with a growth of 17 percent reaching a turnover of 4.2 billion euros.

Sharp increase in worldwide robot installations

According to a new analysis by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), installations of industrial robots around the globe also rose sharply in 2017: by 29 percent compared with the previous year. Here, too, the actual development clearly exceeded expectations. 380,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide.

New standard for Industry 4.0 communication released at automatica

Together with member companies, VDMA Robotics + Automation creates the prerequisites for interoperable communication in the smart factory: The Machine Vision, Integrated Assembly Solutions and Robotics Groups have developed vendor-independent information models based on the OPC UA communication standard for the first time. This means that in the future the machines will speak the same language. On the basis of an OPC UA demonstrator, the association and the industry partners will present two use cases at automatica 2018 in Munich: The first use case shows the skill-based control of an assembly cell with components and systems from more than 20 manufacturers. The second use case shows cloud-based condition monitoring of robots of different types and brands. Experts will answer visitors' questions at the demonstration area and explain the communication approach in specialist presentations. On the first day of the fair (19 June) at 4:30 pm, the official drafts of the Robotics and Vision OPC UA Companion Specifications will be officially released as part of a press event (hall B4, booth 332).

Humans and machines in the factory of the future

Humans and machines will work together more closely in the future than ever before. The intelligent combination of the specific strengths of humans and machines is a decisive topic in automation. At the VDMA special show "People in the Smart Factory" (booth B4.338), these new interfaces between humans and machines are demonstrated live: gesture control, maintenance using augmented reality, mobile learning systems, digital assistance systems, human-robot collaboration, explaining technology via gamification, the particularly ergonomic exoskeleton "Chairless Chair" and a data glove - visitors can try out all of these for themselves to gain insights into the future of work (automatica 2018, Hall B4, Stand 338, Messe München.

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