Selecting the Best Robotic Programming Method

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
There are multiple ways to program an industrial robot. Teach pendants are by far the most common method, but that does not mean they will be the best selection for every robotic user. Programming is a critical aspect of robotic automation, but failure to select the best method for your operation can hinder automation. You want to select a programming method that will be efficient, but also one that will not be overly complex for your robotic experience. Deciding which programming method to use may seem overwhelming but having a clear understanding of each method and your situation will help narrow down the choices.

First, it is important to understand the robotic programming methods out there. Robot programming methods fall under one of two categories, online or offline. Online robot programming consists of using the industrial robot for the programming process by stopping it from its active work. The articulated robot is placed in programming or teaching mode and is “online” during the process. Teach pendants and lead through robotic programming fall under this category. Teach pendants are the handheld devices that come standard with industrial robots. They can either be tethered to the six axis robot or as is the case with most new pendants, connected through a wireless server. Lead through programming involves manually moving the robotic manipulator through the waypoints of an application. This is the primary programming method for collaborative robots. The FANUC CR-15ia is one of FANUC’s cobots that features lead through programming.

The other category, offline programming, does not involve taking a robot out of production in order to program it. Instead, programs can be developed remotely through a PC, tested with simulation, and debugged. Once the program is completed it can then be downloaded to the robot. Offline programming involves computer software that can either be text or graphical based.


The following are some factors to take into consideration in order to select the best robotic programming method.

  • • Robot programming experience - Your level of robotic programming experience will be a big factor in determining the best method for programming your robot. Those that are programming novices should select one of the easier methods. Online programming methods are best for those lacking robot programming experience. Lead through programming is the most intuitive method while many teach pendants feature user-friendly interfaces. Those with experience programming robots will likely not face any restrictions with any method.

  • • Amount of downtime - Online programming methods will have more downtime associated with them than offline programming. Those looking to keep downtime to a minimum will want to consider an offline program. With offline programming, users can create or modify programs while the Motoman MA1440 remains in production.

  • • Complexity of the application - The complexity of your robotic application is another factor to consider when selecting a robotic programming method. More complex applications will likely involve several steps which could be time consuming to demonstrate via lead through programming or to manually enter through a teach pendant. Offline programs are typically best for efficiently entering multiple lines of code since a PC is used.

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