Industrial robots in China up, up and away!

30 August 2017

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China has rapidly become a global leader in robotics and automation. 2016 annual sales of industrial robots reached the highest level ever for any single country: 87,000 units (up 27% from 2015) and China’s stock of industrial robots is now, at 340,000 units, also the highest total in the world. while Chinese robot manufacturers increased their market share to 31% (up 120% from 2015).

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which provided these figures, is forecasting that “from 2018 to 2020, a sales increase between 15 and 20 percent on average per year is possible for industrial robots.” And these projections don’t include service robots for professional and B2B use, and personal use such as toys, drones, mobile gofers, guides, home assistants, and consumer products like robotic vacuums and floor and window cleaners.

Outlook for 2017

According to a report released by China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA) at the big World Robot Conference in August in Beijing and reported by China Daily, China’s industrial robot market is expected to reach $4.22 billion in 2017 representing more than 110,000 new industrial robots.

At the same press conference, CRIA also reported that China’s service robot market will reach $1.32 billion this year, up 28% percent from 2015.

Outlook to 2020

The main drivers for the growth of the use of industrial robots in China are the electrical and electronics industry followed by general handling, welding and the auto industry. This broad and expanding demand is expected to continue as major contract manufacturers start and/or continue to automate their production. A further driving factor is China’s growing consumer market for all kinds of consumer goods.

According to the ten-year national plan “Made in China 2025,” the Chinese government wants to transform China from a low-cost labor-intensive manufacturing giant into a technology-based world manufacturing power. The plan includes strengthening Chinese robot suppliers and further increasing their market shares in China and abroad.


Shenzhen is the Silicon Valley of technology and hardware for China. Things get made FAST. All kinds of ‘things.’ The can-make attitude in Shenzhen is being duplicated around China thus it is important to know what goes on, why it happens in Shenzhen, why it happens so fast, and what they think about patents, intellectual property and Western companies.

Another factor (driver) in China’s relentless push toward automation and robotics is this factoid: In 2016, China’s mobile payments hit $5.5 trillion, roughly 50 times the size of America’s $112 billion market, according to consulting firm iResearch. Chinese are adopting cashless and e-commerce methods at a rate significantly faster than the rest of the world.

WIRED Video produced an hour-long documentary describing the process, the people, and ‘Shanzhai,’ the evolving philosophy of copycat manufacturing, and attempts to put a positive spin on patent avoidance and what many Westerners call stealing, plus the speed of production for adequate profits (as opposed to massive profits). It is a worthwhile and very informative investment of an hour of your time.

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Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.
Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.

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