Orders came from North American manufacturing companies (3,500 robots valued at $219.5 million) and companies outside North America (132 robots valued at $11.4 million.)

The Robotics Industries Association is showing cautious optimism. Says RIA's Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president, "It's too soon to say the robotics industry is out of the woods, or that the weakness in overall capital equipment spending is behind us, but I'm encouraged by the strong start."

The strongest gains came from spot welding, assembly, coating/dispensing, material handling, and material-removal applications. Vincent points out, however, spot welding, primarily an automotive application, is cyclical and large unit orders placed in Q1 may not be repeated throughout the year.

RIA estimates some 128,000 robots are used in the United States, second only to Japan.

For more information go to www.robotsonline.com