Differences Between Offline and Lead Through Programming

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
An industrial robot is a highly sophisticated machine capable of automating most production related applications. How does an articulated robot know how to perform a specific action or application? The answer is through programming. Robot programming involves inputting a set of application specific instructions to the robot’s control system. There are several programming methods that can be used for industrial robots. Two of those methods are offline programming and lead through programming. Below is a breakdown of the key differences between these two methods.


Offline programming, sometimes shortened to OLP, involves programming industrial robots through computer software. Programmers can develop robot programs right on their computer without using the robot. This is a newer programming method, but it has caught on quickly as many of the major robotic manufacturers now offer it as an option. ROBOGUIDE is FANUC’s version that can be used to program the FANUC Arcmate 120ic or any other FANUC robot. While the Motoman MA1400 and other Yaskawa Motoman robots can be programmed offline with MotoSim.

Unlike offline programming lead through programming does not involve any additional software or equipment. This method programs robots by simply moving the robotic manipulator arm by hand through the waypoints of an application. Due to the manual movement this method is also referred to as hand guidance or walk through programming. This method is one of the simplest ways to program a robot.

Robot Types

Offline programming is mainly used with traditional industrial robots including articulated, delta, and gantry robot types. The FANUC Lr Mate 200ic can be programmed offline for an automated assembly application, allowing users to completely optimize the program before uploading to the 200ic. Offline programming is an alternative to teach pendant programming for most traditional industrial robots.

Lead through programming is mainly limited to collaborative robots. Most cobots use hand guidance as their main programming method for easier human and robot interactions. The FANUC CR-15ia and the Universal UR10 both feature hand guidance as their primary mechanism for programming. The compact size and lightweight of cobots makes their arms easier to move than most traditional industrial robot arms.


Offline programming is best suited for programming complex applications. It saves programming time by avoiding inputting each step of an application individually or having to manually demonstrate each step. It is also ideal for programming applications with large parts or high part mixes.

Lead through programming is best for any collaborative robot application and is especially useful for programming processes with a continuous path. It is not ideal for applications requiring pinpoint coordinates as these can be hard to accurately articulate manually.


With offline programming there is almost no robot downtime which is one of its biggest advantages. Programs are developed outside of the production environment without the actual robot. Robots are able to continue to operate while a new program is created.

There is robot downtime with lead through programming since the actual robot is used during the process. Robots must be taken out of production and put in teach mode during programming. However, due to the simplicity of this method, long delays are avoided.

Robots Done Right is the place to start when it comes to used robots. Contact us if you are interested in buying or selling a used robot.