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The number of robots sold in the U.S. will jump nearly 300 percent in nine years

Job-stealing robots are steadily taking over America.

Nissan's Car Manufacturing Plant In Sunderland Christopher Furlong / Getty

The number of industrial robots sold in the U.S. will jump nearly 300 percent in less than a decade, according to a projection from ABI Research.

Already, 40 percent more robots were sold last year in the U.S., compared with four years prior, says data collected from the Robotic Industries Association.

More robots means fewer jobs. For every new industrial robot introduced into the workforce, six jobs were eliminated, a study published last week from the National Economic Research Bureau found.

The automotive industry, as usual, has brought in more robots in recent years than any other industry in the U.S., accounting for 70 percent of North American industrial robot shipments in 2016, with $1.2 billion spent on the machines.

But the automatons are making deep inroads into other industries as well, and not just in jobs that were previously done by humans. Life sciences — think robots used in pharmaceutical labs, working alongside hazardous chemicals — has seen the highest growth in robots outside of the auto industry.

These robots often work “in proximity to biological dangers, the threat of radioactive contamination and toxic chemotherapy compounds,” said Alex Shikany, the director of market analysis at RIA.

Since 2012, there has been a nearly 21 percent average annual increase in the number of pharmaceutical and life-science robots shipped in North America, according to RIA’s data. The uptick in this space, says Shikany, has to do with general growth in health care, medical device manufacturing and lab automation.

Robots are also getting less expensive and more capable, which is why more robots are getting to work.

Instead of having a big robot manufacturing cars that would essentially do the same thing over and over, new robots are smaller and also re-programmable, says Dan Kara, who oversees robotics research at ABI, a technology analysis firm. That means robots can cheaply perform a diverse array of jobs, even ones once considered too delicate or nuanced for automation.

Investment in more diverse types of industrial robots took off after the recession around 2009, says Kara, who notes that the economic downturn led automakers to make fewer cars, which meant less demand for robots. That forced robotics makers to explore other area, such as in the food and electronics industries and life sciences.

Annual shipments of industrial robots are set to see double-digit growth globally through 2025, when nearly a million units will ship, according to ABI’s projections.

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