Online Robot Programming vs Offline Robot Programming

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
There are multiple methods for programming industrial robots. Robot programming methods are typically divided into two categories: online programming and offline programming. Deciding which programming method is best for your robotic system will depend upon the application complexity, programming experience, robotic experience, and robot downtime. To help you decide which programming method is best, we have broken down the key differences between online and offline robot programming along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Online Programming

Online programming methods involve stopping the six axis robot, taking it out of production, and putting it into programming or teaching mode. Programs are then created or modified using the articulated robot. The main programming methods in the online category are teach pendant and lead through programming.

Teach pendant programming is the most common method for programming industrial robots. It is estimated about 90% of industrial robots are programmed through teach pendants. All industrial robots come with a compatible pendant which is a handheld device that plugs into the robot. Programmers can then use the pendant’s interface to create or modify application programs. During programming the FANUC Arcmate 120ic will move through the desired positions as the programmer enters in each step of an application through the teach pendant.

Lead through robotic programming is an intuitive method in which the robot arm is manually guided through the waypoints of an application. This method is also referred to as hand guidance programming. Lead through programming is the primary programming method for collaborative robots. FANUC’s CR-15ia from their cobot series can be programmed this way. The intuitive nature of this programming method makes it best for those who are new to robotic automation as it is easy to learn.

Online Programming Advantages

No extra hardware or software is required
Most technicians are familiar with teach pendants
Best for simpler applications

Online Programming Disadvantages

Requires robot to be taken out of production, increasing downtime
Pendants require knowledge of brand specific programming language
Lead through programming lacks precision

Offline Programming

Offline programming involves creating robot programs through a computer using programming software and a simulated work environment. Unlike online programming methods, offline robotic programming does not require the robot to be present. The Yaskawa Motoman MA1440 can remain operating while users create or modify applications using offline software. A 3D replication of the robot’s work environment is created through simulation to thoroughly test and debug programs. When a program is ready, it is then downloaded to the robot. Offline programming software can either be text or graphical based. All major robotic brands have developed offline software. FANUC’s ROBOGUIDE can be used with the FANUC R-2000ic along with other FANUC robots. While the Motoman MH50 uses Yaskawa Motoman’s MotoSim.

Offline Programming Advantages

Reduces robot downtime since programming is completed offline without the robot present
Best for complex programs as saves time from manually entering steps
Simulation ensures accurate programming

Offline Programming Advantages

Extra cost is involved as offline programming is typically sold as an option
Requires additional software and a computer
May require additional training for programmers

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