The diffusion of industrial robots Contribution to the Routledge Handbook of Smart Technologies
Over the last 20 years, industrial robots have become more flexible, adaptive and powerful. The worldwide diffusion of industrial robots increased significantly, especially after the global financial crisis of 2008/09. Despite this growth, industrial robots are unevenly distributed across countries, sectors and firms and still far from being a general-purpose technology. Today, firms in Asian countries install more industrial robots than America, Europe and Africa combined. China is the largest user of industrial robots. The manufacturing sector is by far the major application domain for robots, in particular the automotive and the electrical/electronics industries. Outside manufacturing, only few robots are installed. Robots are still an exception in small firms and for the production in smaller batches or single units. Evidence for an uneven diffusion of robots can also be found in comparisons of the intensity of robot use across countries which is very much driven by industrial structure.