In 2015, China was the biggest market for industrial robots (Photo: Kuka)

Sales of industrial robots rose 8 pc in 2015 to a record 240,000 units, according to the World Robotics Federation (IFR). The greatest demand was registered by the auto industry.

"In the age of Industry 4.0, the automotive industry is taking a leading role when it comes to flexible and state-of-the-art automation solutions and the direct collaboration between humans and robots," Stefan Lampa, CEO of Germany's Kuka Robotics, said in a press statement.

Olaf Gehrels, CEO of Fanuc Europe, noted that collaborative robots are now ready for routine use. And he said high-payload robots capable of handling heavy items will pave the way for new manufacturing concepts.

IFR said sales in China soared 16 pc to 66,000, making it the world's biggest market for robot sales. European sales were up 9 pc to 50,000 with Eastern European sales up 29 pc.

In the US, robot makers sold 11 pc more units for a total of 34,000, also a record.