Let me just start with sad news. It is with our deepest sorrow that Xavier Grau, General Manager of our member association AER-ATP, Spain, passed away on September 4, 2016 in Barcelona at the age of 59. With gratitude we pay our respect to his work in robotics and all the contributions he made to the IFR. Our thoughts are with his family.
In 2015, global sales of industrial robots increased by 8% to almost 240,000 units, another all-time high for the third year in a row. The automotive industry and the electronics industry continued investing in automation of their factories. Asia, in particular China, was again the main driver of the growth.
We are in the middle of one of the most exciting times in the history of Robotics and the automation industry. We continue to see explosive growth with 2015 topping 2014 by 15% and establishing a new record in Robot sales worldwide.
Today, the IFR has published World Robotics 2015 and the impressive forecast of global robot installations between 2015 and 2018. By 2018, annual sales of industrial robots will reach 400,000 units. This is almost twice as much as the sales volume in 2014. The main driver of this development is the global competition of industrial production. Within this context, the rapid automation in China represents a unique development in the history of robotics.
The increasing use of robots has motivated a number of researchers to analyse the impact of automation on jobs and the economy: like many things, the forecasts and views are often different. In this perspective I like to cite some views and studies supporting the positive effects of the introduction of Robots and Automation.
Robots and people working together. This will assume a key role in advancing intelligent production, concluded the participants of the IFR CEO Round Table discussion at the Automate 2015 in Chicago. It will open up new applications and new customers for the robotics industry.
More than 200,000 industrial robots will have been sold in 2014. This is again a new record. Opportunities for continued growth are huge. The breakthrough of human robot collaboration just started. It will capture other industrial sectors that, to date, have remained undeveloped. The topic is hot! Robot experts and robot users will discuss on "Robots and People Working Together" at the next IFR CEO Round Table on 23rd March 2015 in Chicago.
World Robotics has just published the latest forecast figures on robot shipments in 2014, and 2015 to 2017, and I must admit I am proud to present such a strong industry. The worldwide demand on industrial robots is just overwhelming. An increase of 15% on shipments and a further forecast of an average annual growth of 12% between 2015 and 2017 signify that to satisfy such high demand our industry will probably have overcome certain challenges.
Human-machine-collaboration, more ease of use and assembly will provide a huge potential for robot installations in the coming years. This became apparent in the discussion of the robot users Dr. Chia Day, Foxconn, and Dr. Stefan-Markus Baginski, BMW, among five CEO robot suppliers at the AUTOMATICA in Munich on 4 June 2014.