Teach Pendants vs Lead Through Programming

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
Industrial robots can automate just about any production related task. In order to automate a specific robotic application, they first must be programmed. Programming is key to the success of any robotic application as it relays the specific commands for a process to the industrial robot. There are several methods that can be used to program industrial robots. Two of those methods are teach pendant programming and lead through programming.

Programming Method

Teach pendants are the most widely used out of all robot programming methods. Teach pendants are the handheld devices that are part of a robot’s control system. These devices typically consist of a display screen, a keypad, buttons, or switches. Newer pendants feature a modernized design with a touchscreen display. Operators can input each step of a specific application through the pendant’s keypad or touchscreen. Programming the FANUC M-10ia for an automated assembly application is typically done using a teach pendant.

Lead through uses demonstration as the methodology for programming. Operators can manually guide the robot manipulator arm through the various waypoints of an application. Since this method involves manually moving the robotic arm it is often referred to as hand guidance or walk-through programming. This programming method is mainly used for collaborative robots as their arms are smaller and lighter making them easier to move. The FANUC CR-15ia uses hand guidance for programming. Hand guidance is also the main programming method for the Universal UR10.


Since teach pendant programming is used for the majority of articulated robots, most robot techs will be familiar with the devices and likely won’t need any additional training. This allows for quicker setup and implementation times. In addition, pendants come standard with six axis robots so there is no need to purchase additional equipment or software. Pendants are considered the best programming method for straightforward applications. For instance, the Motoman HP20D can easily be programmed for basic automated material handling tasks using a pendant.

The main advantage of lead through programming is its simplicity. Anyone can program a robot with the lead through method as there is no additional equipment involved and users do not need to learn special coding. Lead through programming is also faster than other programming methods including teach pendants. Users save time through demonstrating tasks as opposed to manually inputting each step of an application.


One of the main disadvantages of programming with teach pendants is it can be time consuming, especially when programming complex applications. The more commands an application has the longer programming will take since each step must be manually entered. Another disadvantage of teach pendants is robots must be taken out of production during programming, causing downtime for operations.

Disadvantages of lead through programming include lack of versatility, precision, and downtime. Lead through programming is mostly limited to cobots as most traditional industrial robots no longer support this method. It is also difficult for applications requiring precise coordinates as programming by hand can cause inconsistencies and be inaccurate. Like teach pendants, lead through programming also involves downtime since the robot must be taken out of operation and placed in teach mode for programming.

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