BERLIN, June 5 (Reuters) - German sales of robotics and automation equipment, an engine of the country's export-led economy, are expected to shrug off growing tensions over international trade to rise by 9 percent this year after notching up record growth in 2017.
German mechanical engineering association VDMA said on Tuesday it expected sales of robotics and automation equipment to reach 15.8 billion euros ($18.5 billion) in 2018.
That would mark a slowdown from the record growth of 13 percent last year when buoyant demand from China helped propel sales to 14.5 billion euros.
"2017 was a very strong year for our industry," Norbert Stein, chairman of the VDMA's robotics and automation association, said.
Between 2010 and 2017 the sector grew at an average rate of 10 percent per year and almost doubled sales in the same period, Stein said.
Global demand for industrial robots is rising as labour costs increase and technology becomes more sophisticated, allowing robots to do more delicate work than in the past.
The VDMA said last year's record demand had increased delivery times which would have a positive impact on 2018 sales.
Germany exported 60 percent of its robotics and automation equipment last year.
Exports to China, which drives the world market, soared by around 60 percent, propelled by big investment in its electronics industry and automation. Demand was also dynamic in the United States, while growth in Europe remained moderate, the VDMA said.
Leading providers include industrial robot maker Kuka , which was bought by Chinese home appliance maker Midea, and industrial group Siemens. Other global leaders in standard industrial robots are Switzerland's ABB and Japan's Fanuc.
$1 = 0.8559 euros Reporting by Caroline Copley Editing by Maria Sheahan