Why Industrial Robot Sales are Sky High

Industrial robots have come a long way since George Devol invented “Unimate” in 1961.

After pitching his idea to Joseph Engelberger at a cocktail party, the two soon saw their new creation become the first mass-produced robotic arm to be used in factory automation.

Today, as Visual Capitalists's Ang Ahlstrom notes, this robot class is raising the bar of global manufacturing to new heights, striking a seamless mix of strength, speed, and precision. As a result, demand for industrial robots keeps growing at a robust 14% per year, setting the stage for 3.1 million industrial robots in operation globally by 2020.

Source: Visual Capitalist


Why are industrial robots flying off the shelves at an unprecedented rate?

Significant factors include advancements in machine learning and computer vision, since the prospect of new functionality leads to more use cases and increased demand. In addition, the maturation of 3D printing technology and the soaring interest in collaborative robots also deserve some of the credit.

What’s interesting though, is that according to experts, the record demand for robots is actually largely in response to the notable decline in unit costs.

ARK Investment Management, a leading researcher in this market, says that industrial robot costs are expected to drop a solid 65% between 2015 and 2025. Impressively, the cost per robot will plunge from $31,000 to $11,000 over that decade of time.


Why are unit costs dropping so fast?

For ARK, such price shifts account for the workings of Wright’s Law, which states: “for every cumulative doubling in number of units produced, costs will decline by a consistent percentage”. In the field of robotics that cost decline, also known as the “learning rate”, has been around 50%.

As industrial robotic operations grow, especially in the automotive industry, the manufacturing sector continues to save millions. Meanwhile, working conditions improve as robots take mundane, repetitive, and dangerous task loads from human workers.

At present, the largest market share of industrial robots is held in the Asia-Pacific region – namely, China, Japan, Korea, and India. But as current trends suggest, these falling prices will only steer further global reach.


Oldwood 38BWD22 Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:30 Permalink

They're coming.

We are marketing wood processing systems (cabinet manufacturing) that includes robotics for material handling from one machine operation to the next. Costs are low compared to employees, but what makes robotics so much more functional is that they can read the labeled part and "know" what to do with it. Instead of having each step pre-programmed in a specific order, the work can be randomly processed and the robot can identify that part and handle it appropriately, no longer just simple repetitive work. They "think".

In reply to by 38BWD22

Oldwood Cluster_Frak Tue, 05/29/2018 - 23:03 Permalink

Fanuc is one of the biggest, but we are using Kawasaki for our systems.

I'm setting up a dealership tech center where we can set these systems up for demonstrations. I'm watching existing manufacturers trying to adapt to this technology, and its definitely not just for the big guys, but change is hard when you already have systems in place that are seemingly working. If I weren't so damned old I would set up a production plant from scratch, small scale, high production. relatively few people required to run massive numbers, and easily scaleable as sales increase. The machines are easy, it is the tech adoption that is hard, but once in place it's simple multiplication to grow. And this is woodworking, the LAST adopter of technology. Imagine how it affects industries who are more tech adept.

What I think is interesting....and telling, is that it is China that is the big buyer of robotics. The nation build upon cheap labor is buying robots. Do we need a knock up side the head to see the trend here? Those holding back, resisting technology will find eventually their profits shrinking and soon will lose their ability to make the move. 

In reply to by Cluster_Frak

Nexus789 Oldwood Wed, 05/30/2018 - 06:03 Permalink

People don't understand China. They were never going to remain low cost producers as that simply gave their economy momentum thanks to US policy. While the US fiddles around with dick waving, useless weapons and ineffectual trade policies China will own the core robotics and AI technologies such to make them unassailable in terms of 'competitiveness'. 

In reply to by Oldwood

roddy6667 Cluster_Frak Tue, 05/29/2018 - 23:42 Permalink

They will have self-cleaning restrooms. Most people are too young to remember, but they had them in Boston and New York about 1960. They required payment to use. The government decided that this wasn't "fair", so they were banned. They even had the seats get sanitized using an unfiltered UV light.

I remember using one in an upscale restaurant in Boston in 1961. Our English teacher took the class to a nice restaurant as part of a class trip. We had studied how to order prix fixe or a la carte, how to use the proper utensils, how to talk to waiters, all that. Now the kids just eat at Mickey D's or some other squat-and-gobble. Proles don't need manners.

In reply to by Cluster_Frak

roddy6667 LetThemEatRand Tue, 05/29/2018 - 23:49 Permalink

The suicide rate among FoxConn workers is lower than the general rate in China, which is normal for developed countries.

The average rate of suicide in China is 22 per 100,000 people per year. That is, the suicide rate at Foxconn was under 5% of the general suicide rate of the Chinese population. It’s extremely difficult to see why any blame should attach to Foxconn or Apple over this.

Your beliefs are typical of American who get their news from The American media.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

vato poco roddy6667 Wed, 05/30/2018 - 02:50 Permalink


the bot tells us, in essence, "never mind those grotesquely bad PR anti-suicide nets Foxconn was forced to put up to stop workers jumping. never mind the immense loss of face Foxconn had to endure, as well as the worldwide contempt for their contemptible inhumanity to their slaves ... uh, 'valued team members'. here are some numbers which may or may not be a pack of lies."

your beliefs are typical of chinese programming which steals from & piggybacks on the ideas of their betters.

In reply to by roddy6667

roddy6667 vato poco Wed, 05/30/2018 - 22:20 Permalink

The numbers about the suicide rate and the worker deaths are widely available on the Internet. However, they are not published by the American media. If you are satisfied being an ignorant tool, keep believing the propaganda you are fed.

Foxconn has one million employees. There were 17 suicides in 5 years. That is a very low rate, especially considering that teenage and twenties women are the largest demographic.

It is Orwellian that a company is forced to put up suicide nets for a problem that does not exist, because of the MASSIVE onslaught of false information in America, its biggest customer.

In reply to by vato poco

Hubbs Anonymous_Bene… Tue, 05/29/2018 - 21:58 Permalink

From Pete Townsend's brilliant  Iron Man album:

"Man and Machines"


"Man makes machines to man the machines to make a machine that makes the machines."

Come to think of it, before I finished typing this, the following song on the album started playing. Reminds me of the pedophiles, Pizzagate, Podesta, Hillary Clinton and all the sick bastard perverts in Washington.

"Frisky little children, served up in the nude. Feed me fast....."



In reply to by Anonymous_Bene…

Iskiab Juggernaut x2 Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:13 Permalink

Nah, that will be when AI can fill customer service jobs.  

Google released a video showing AI making phone appointments, once that’s in place the next step will be incoming calls.  That’s when there’ll be mass displacement.  Most companies are made up of customer service reps and their support.  It will mean no HR, no management, etc...

In reply to by Juggernaut x2

Oldwood RabbitOne Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:55 Permalink

The economic perpetual motion machine, of course completely ignoring government "friction" will grind its utopian potential to a halt.

What humans must understand is WHY we have persisted for so many thousands of years.

Organization of power NEEDS the masses to provide it food, convenience and protection. As technology advances "we" are becoming less of a necessity to sustain the greater powers that be. "We" are becoming redundant and the useless eater's sole use is to provide democratic power. As their population grows, so does the power concentration, billions increasingly dependent and hungry, not just for sustenance of our bodies, but also to feed of social justice diet.

But there is a tipping point where votes don't matter because the opposition has been decimated, and these useless eaters will see their end. Ebola, civil war, inaccessible healthcare or innumerable other causes will thin the herd.

Technology will provide all but entertainment for its owners, while those who only sought to consume technology will have nothing. Regardless of how cheap and prolific technology becomes, it won't matter to those who have zero ability to earn to pay for it. Taxing the producers to pay their consumers to buy is pure nonsense and stupidity, and the owners of production will not tolerate it.

Corporations have levered massive debts to fund their tech revolution, debts that will eventually be used to crash the economy and wipe away the assets of billions of people, people who largely contribute nothing to the lives of the predominant "owners" of technology. And the progressives will applaud. Given they believe that Humans are a blight on the planet, overpopulation, pollution, shortages..ALL will be eliminated leaving a peaceful low density world of luxury, robots growing our food, providing our healthcare, making ever more robots to fulfill our dreams....if we are still here.

In reply to by RabbitOne

divingengineer Decolat Wed, 05/30/2018 - 02:01 Permalink

The useless have a very bleak future, maybe all of us do. There is a sinister lack of incentive to foster the human race when there is no need of us anymore.

Some people welcome this future thinking they will be useful to the robot owners, those owners  are not egalitarian or humanist in their ambitions, they are the new age robber barons and will eliminate your existence the same as they did the shorthand dictating secretary when you no longer serve their purpose.

Robots will be the greatest upheaval in the history of human existence.

You will be obsolete, even the programmers and AI developers.

How will you live? How will you ever leave your compound and survive the Morlocks? How will you or the robot owners spend this wonderful money, and on what? Why will you need money? 


In reply to by Decolat

itstippy A Nanny Moose Wed, 05/30/2018 - 08:56 Permalink

The majority of people can't fix a sandwich, much less an industrial robot.  When boring, repetitive jobs disappear the bottom 2/3rds of the population (intelligence & skill wise) will have no way to "earn a living".  They'll become disgruntled and cause problems. 

If you spend some time with the "economically disadvantaged" you'll find that the idea that all they need is some training and opportunity and they'll thrive doesn't work in the real world.  Our local High School turns out both honor roll students and dropouts.  Every student is offered the same curriculum taught by the same teachers in the same school.  They all have equal access and opportunity.  Some, for whatever reason, can't make any use of it.  Offering "Robot Programming and Repair" classes won't help them, and if the boring, repetitive jobs are gone they're Fucked (for lack of a better word).

In reply to by A Nanny Moose

Cautiously Pes… Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:17 Permalink

The robots are going to own everything! I ain't going out like this!! 

I will have to get my old crew back together and start robbing and carjacking every robot family we see.  Damn you robots.... and stay off my lawn!

Balance-Sheet Tue, 05/29/2018 - 22:37 Permalink

Machines work 24 hours a day doing precision work so will defeat all human competition. Here is what happens. The Fed estimates the value of the 2019 GDP for example and how many digital dollars are needed to produce that GDP figure then issues that amount of currency to all the residents. The unemployed simply get ever larger EBT deposits as the robot economy expands. Those who do work keep their earnings plus the universal EBT income. There is no real reason for taxation as the USG issues the currency other than to punish the employed.


Oldwood Balance-Sheet Tue, 05/29/2018 - 23:22 Permalink

In a free market system uncorrupted by prolific debt and government redistribution, technology could not eliminate vast numbers of jobs. If technology eliminated jobs and there was no unemployment insurance, no welfare, child support, food stamps and all the rest, those unemployed would be out on the streets protesting....and starving. Instead, we pay people to NOT work by using debt and redistribution...continuing to consume, to remain the loyal customers of those who fired them.

Business (in a real world) cannot survive if they have no customers, but they can continue to prosper and borrow even more money to eliminate even more jobs if the illusion of viable consumers persists.

It is a race to see if they can fully develop their tech to a self sustaining level, where they need no customers but themselves, before the system collapses of its own weight. Regardless of their consequences, ours are pretty much the same either way. And a people so sure that "work" is racist and they are all entitled, that they will likely never respond to the collapse to save themselves, and will have no skills to do so regardless.

In reply to by Balance-Sheet

Balance-Sheet Oldwood Wed, 05/30/2018 - 14:14 Permalink

You write very well but let us focus on the current situation and not some hypothetical 'free market' abstraction. Everything disappears over time so pointing this out is not tactically helpful.

Q: Why is there a currency at all?

A: To quickly complete transactions in the economy and this is most quickly and inexpensively done electronically.

Q: How is currency created?

A: Through Debt Mechanisms

Q: Why are debt mechanisms employed to create currency?

A: To make the supply of currency flexible. As previous debts are repaid the supply of currency declines every day. If more currency is required then the amount of total lending and new debts is increased to support a higher level of transactions.

Q: Must all debts be repaid.

A: No. The USG can arrange a permanent national debt and this permanent debt represents currency likely to never be withdrawn. Private sector debtors declare bankruptcy and the currency they owe is partly or completely cancelled.

We know from many events in History too numerous to count that those considered economically redundant can be killed while those with valuable skills can be preserved from the slaughter and put to work creating value. So many were slaughtered in the 20th Century that no government is CURRENTLY willing to kill economically redundant or even destructive, raping, robbing, murdering people.

Since employing them would only increase the waste of productive inputs we issue currency to the economically redundant to maintain strife at tolerable levels with minimum compensation plans at the less costly alternative.

Technical restructuring of the economy overruns and makes previous economic views obsolete and inapplicable. A. Lincoln was an early advocate of the Free Labor ideology but structural changes were sweeping that aside even before the Civil War ended and the war stimulated the rapid end of Free Labor. Free Market ideology as touted has already passed its potentials as we already have 96M economically redundant adults in the USA never to be employed and another 14M? currently unemployed who *may* find work.

All people live a few decades then die so the problem is self resolving or considered to be so currently. Optimal solution under the circumstances is electronically transferred universal basic income. We actually have this hidden under scores of entitlement categories and were it integrated into one category it would show as US UBI: 2.5- 3T per year so this will continue to expand through a combination of debt mechanisms and the flexible currency supply it permits.

In reply to by Oldwood

DipshitMiddleC… Wed, 05/30/2018 - 00:32 Permalink

I think UBI or some sort of incentive based UBI is going to come sooner than later due to automation. 


VBA for excel has probably killed more jobs than any AI algorithms ever have, to be honest.


But then again..alot of the jobs in corporate america were bullshit to begin with. managers hiring people just to manage instead of actually hiring people to fulfill demand for labor that needed to be done.