The total number of professional service robots sold in 2014 rose by a solid 11.5% compared to 2013 to 24,207 units up from 21,712 in 2013. The sales value slightly increased by 3% to US$3.77 billion. Since 1998, a total of about 172,000 service robots for professional use have been counted in these statistics. It is not possible to estimate how many of these robots are still in operation due to the diversity of these products resulting in varying utilization times. Some robots (e.g. underwater robots) might be more than 10 years in operation (compared to an average of 12 years in industrial robotics). Others like defence robots may only serve for a short time.
With 11,000 units, service robots in defence applications accounted for 45% of the total number of service robots for professional use sold in 2014. Thereof, unmanned aerial vehicles seem to be the most important application and their sales increased by 7% to 9,022 units. A number of 1,629 unmanned ground based vehicles which include e.g. bomb fighting robots were sold, 9% less than in 2013. The number of demining robots was 350 units in 2014, compared to 300 units in 2013. The value of defence robots can only roughly be estimated. It was about US$1,023 million, 13.5% more than in 2013. This accounts to about 27% of the total sales of professional service robots. However, the true number of these robots as well as the value might be significantly higher.
5,180 milking robots were sold in 2014 compared to 4,790 units in 2013, representing an 8% increase. 160 units of other robots for livestock farming such as mobile barn cleaners or robotic fencers for automated grazing control were sold in 2014, resulting in an increase of 33%. The total number of field robots sold in 2014 was about 5,700 units, accounting for a share of 24% of the total unit supply of professional service robots. The sales value of field robots increased by 12% to US$989 million, accounting for about 26% of the total value of professional service robot sales. Other robots used for livestock farming as well as agricultural robots are getting grounded in the market also. Automation of farming and livestock breeding is increasing. 69% of the total unit sales of professional service robots in 2014 were defence or field robots.
Sales of medical robots decreased by 5% compared to 2013 to 1,224 units in 2014, accounting for a share of 5% of the total unit sales of professional service robots. The most important applications are robot assisted surgery and therapy with 978 units sold in 2014, 6% less than in 2013. The total value of sales of medical robots decreased to US$1,317 million, accounting for 35% of the total sales value of the professional service robots. Medical robots are the most valuable service robots with an average unit price of about US$ one million, including accessories and services. Therefore, suppliers of medical robots also provide leasing contracts for their robots.
2,644 logistic systems were installed in 2014, 27% more than in 2013, accounting for 7% of the total sales of professional service robots. 2,164 automated guided vehicles in manufacturing environments and 400 in non-manufacturing environments are building up an increase of 29% compared to automated guided vehicles sales numbers in 2013. It is assumed that the actual number of newly deployed systems is far higher. The value of sales of logistic systems is estimated at about US$261 million. Medical robots as well as logistic systems are well established service robots with a considerable growth potential. About 1,800 mobile platforms in general use, 150% more than in 2013 were sold in 2014. Sales of all other types were still considerably low or no reliable information was available.
In 2014, about 4.7 million service robots for personal and domestic use were sold, 28% more than in 2013. The value of sales increased to US$2.2 billion.
Service robots for personal and domestic use are recorded separately, as their unit value is generally only a fraction of that of many types of service robots for professional use. They are also produced for a mass market with completely different pricing and marketing channels.
So far, service robots for personal and domestic use are mainly in the areas of domestic (household) robots, which include vacuum and floor cleaning, lawn-mowing robots, and entertainment and leisure robots, including toy robots, hobby systems, education and research.
Handicap assistance robots have taken off to the anticipated degree in the past few years. In 2014, a total of 4,416 robots were sold, up from 699 in 2013 - an increase of 542%. This increase is partly due to a more complete coverage. Numerous national research projects in many countries concentrate on this huge future market for service robots. In contrast to the household and entertainment robots, these robots are high-tech products.
The market of robots for personal transportation could not be surveyed sufficiently because the available information was poor. However, this market as well as home security and surveillance robots will gain importance in the future.
In 2014, it was estimated that 3.3 million robots for domestic tasks, including vacuum cleaning, lawn-mowing, window cleaning and other types, were sold. The actual number might, however, be significantly higher, as the IFR survey is far from having full coverage in this domain. The value was about US$1.2 billion. Compared to 2013, this represents an increase of 24%.
As for entertainment robots, about 1.3 million units were counted in 2014, 40% more than in 2013. Numerous companies, especially Asian ones, offer low-priced "toy robots". But among those mass products, there are increasingly more sophisticated products for the home entertainment market. For many years now, the LEGO® Mindstorms® programme has belonged to the more high quality products offering software environments which reach well into high-tech robotics.
Turning to the projections for the period 2015-2018, sales forecast indicate an increase to about 152,375 units with a value of US$19.6 billion.
Thereof, about 58,800 robots for defence applications will be sold in the period 2015-2018. They are followed by milking robots with about 28,600 units. This is probably a rather conservative estimate. These two service robot groups make up 60% of the total forecast of service robots at the current time.
A strongly growing sector will be mobile platforms in general use. Service robot suppliers estimate that about 16,000 mobile platforms as customizable multi-purpose platforms use will be sold in the period 2015-2018. Also, sales of logistic systems will increase considerably in this period. More than 14,500 units are estimated, thereof, about 13,300 automated guided vehicles. About 700 robots for rescue and security applications will be sold between 2015 and 2018 mainly surveillance and security robots. Robots for professional cleaning will increase to about 6,650 units in the same period, mainly systems for floor cleaning. About 7,800 medical robots will be sold plus 4,000 robots for inspection and maintenance.
These forecasts are, as mentioned earlier, based mainly on individual sales projections by companies and professional organizations. It is the opinion of the IFR Statistical Department that the forecasts should be seen as trends concerning market direction rather than actual and precise sales forecasts.
Vacuum and floor cleaning robots will enter more and more households in the world. It is estimated that between 2015 and 2018 about 25.2 million units will be sold. Regarding lawn-mowing robots, another 496,500 units are forecast for the period 2015-2018.
Sales of robot companions/assistants/humanoids are projected that between 2015 and 2018 8,100 units of these robots will be sold. However, up till now, there have been no significant sales of humanoids as human companions to perform typical everyday tasks in production, office or home environments. Quite a few Japanese companies (HONDA, Kawada, Toyota and some others) and also American, Korean and European companies are in the process of developing these general-purpose robot assistants beyond the toy and leisure stage. First shipments of these humanoid robots started in 2004 to international laboratories and universities as high-end robotics research and development platforms. So, this forecast seems to be realistic for the period between 2015 and 2018 especially given the recent product successes in the field.
It is projected that sales of all types of robots for domestic tasks (vacuum cleaning, lawn-mowing, window cleaning and other types) could reach almost 25.9 million units in the period 2015-2018, with an estimated value of US$12.2 billion. The size of the market for toy robots and hobby systems is forecast at about 6 million units, most of which for obvious reasons are very low-priced. About 3 million robots for education and research are expected to be sold in the period 2015-2018.
Sales of all types of entertainment and leisure robots are projected at about 9 million units, with a value of about US$7.6 billion. Sales of robots for elderly and handicap assistance will be about 12,400 units in the period of 2015-2018. This market is expected to increase substantially within the next 20 years.