Robots are in demand in China (Graphic: IFR)

Starting from a low base, China is set to see a sharp increase in the use of robots in manufacturing, according the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

Today's 200,000 robots in Chinese plants are set to double to more than 400,000 by 2017. That compares with a projected 300,000 in Europe's five major markets in 2017 and 340,000 in North America.

China already is the world's biggest robotics market in terms of sales and that trend will continue, IFR says. The high demand for robots reflects the relatively low state of mechanization in the country.

At the moment, China has only 30 industrial robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees. By comparison, Germany's robotic density is 10 times larger, while it is five times higher in North America.

The auto industry accounts for roughly 40 percent of robot sales in China.

Foreign robot manufacturers play a key role in China, providing four out of five industrial robots to Chinese companies. Most of these manufactuers come from Japan, North America and Europe. Many of them already build robots in China or plan to start their own manufacturing there soon.