Japanese robot sales reach $6.5bn in 2007

Japanese robot sales reach $6.5bn in 2007

Factory automation drives growth

Japan's robot industry will achieve sales of $6.5bn this year, an industry association predicts.

Domestic and export sales were worth $4.75bn in 2006, according to statistics from the Japan Robot Association (JRA) which represents the country's major robot makers.

Around 95 per cent of Japan's robot output goes to industry, despite the country's image as a pioneer of consumer robots such as Sony's Aibo dog.

Industrial robots have many roles, but are most commonly used for welding, particularly on cars and other vehicles in the auto industry.

Specialised robots are also used to transport partly finished components inside computer chip factories, and to handle delicate components in high-tech display production facilities.

The Japanese robot industry's value is expected to exceed $8.5bn by 2010, a JRA spokesman told local reporters this week.

New industries such as LCD panel production are helping to drive demand for sophisticated manufacturing robots, while exports to consumer electronics manufacturers in China are growing as production scales make automation increasingly important.

Local analyst firm Nomura predicts that the number of industrial robots used worldwide will grow more than 76 per cent to exceed 1.6 million by 2015.

The company's researchers claim that close to one million industrial robots were in use around the world by 2005, 40 per cent in Japan, 32 per cent in Europe, 15 per cent in North America and 12 per cent in Asia (excluding Japan).

An ageing workforce, high salaries and cultural resistance to large-scale immigration make robots an attractive alternative for some employers in Japan's domestic market.