Robotics, vision and motion control set records in 2017

ANN ARBOR — The North American robotics, machine vision and motion control markets continue to set new records, according to the Association for Advancing Automation.

“What I find most telling about these results is not simply that the automation market continues to grow, but that it is growing in such a wide variety of industries,” according to Jeff Burnstein, A3 president. “New industries continue to embrace robotics, vision, and motion, reaping the benefits of automation.”

Robotics: $1.9 billion in total sales

The year 2017 was a milestone for the North American robotics market as it surpassed previous high water marks in all four statistical categories: order units, order revenue, shipment units, and shipment revenue.

Customers purchased 34,904 units representing $1.896 billion in sales, growth of 0.9 percent in units and 0.1 percent in dollars from 2016. While automotive-related orders were down compared to the previous year, down 7.3 percent in units and 3.8 percent in dollars, non-automotive orders fueled the rise in 2017 with 20.5 percent growth in units and 7.3 percent in dollars.

The industry also set records for North American shipments in 2017: 33,575 robots valued at $1.938 billion shipped to customers last year. This is an expansion of 8.7 percent in units and 6.9 percent in dollars over 2016, with non-automotive related shipments once again providing the growth. 2017 shipments increased 29.7 percent in units and 19.7 percent in dollars from 2016. The largest growth rates for units shipped came from the plastics and rubber, up 59.6 percent, metals, up 53.9 percent, and food and consumer goods, up 44.2 percent. Automotive shipments were flat in both units and dollars compared to 2016.

Vision and Imaging: Demand Reaches Highest Levels at $2.6 Billion

More imaging components and systems were sold than ever before last year as demand for machine vision solutions reached record levels in North America. In 2017, total machine vision transactions in North America grew 14.6 percent over 2016 to $2.633 billion. Total machine vision financial transactions is comprised of both systems and component markets. In 2017, total systems markets increased 14.8 percent to $2.262 billion, while total component markets grew 12.3 percent to $359 million.

The market began the year in the first quarter with $596.5 million in total financial transactions, increased in the second quarter to $644.9 million, and reached an all-time high of $696.4 million in the third quarter.

Despite a slight contraction, the fourth quarter was still the second best quarter ever for total machine vision financial transactions in North America, bringing increases of 16.7 percent to $694.8 million overall, 18.2 percent to $604.6 million in systems, and 5.7 percent to $87.8 million in components on a year-over-year basis.

A3 officials said industry experts are bullish on all component markets except imaging boards (flat) for the first half of 2018. The industry also expects application specific machine vision systems and smart camera sales to remain flat over the same period.

The Vision Show 2018 will be held in Boston April 10-12, showcasing the largest array of machine vision and imaging components and solutions in North America. Highlights include the Embedded Vision Pavilion and conference track, the startup competition and the Collaborative Robots conference track. Register at

Motion Control and Motors: 8.1 percent shipment growth

Shipments of motion control and motor products grew 8.1 percent, from $3.245 billion in 2016 to $3.559 billion in 2017. The largest product category in terms of sales is motors, comprising 38.1 percent of total shipments. Actuators and mechanical systems is second largest with 18.5 percent of shipments. Motion controllers was the fastest growing category in 2017, increasing 20.7 percent to $196.4 million, followed by AC drives (12.7 percent to $388.0 million) and actuators and mechanical systems (12.4 percent to $658.2 million).

The Association for Advancing Automation is the umbrella group for Robotic Industries Association (RIA), AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, and Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA). RIA, AIA, and MCMA combined represent over 1,070 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups, and consulting firms from throughout the world. More at

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