Teach Pendants vs Offline Programming
There are multiple programming methods for industrial robots. Teach pendants and offline programming are the two most common. Understanding each option will help you determine which programming method would be best for programming your industrial robot as there are pros and cons with both options.
Teach PendantsTeach pendant programming is considered the traditional robot programming method and is the most common. All industrial robots come packaged with a handheld device from the manufacturer, these devices are the robot’s teach pendant. These devices contain several buttons, switches, or as in the case with more modern pendants, a touchscreen. Teach pendants are an online programming method, meaning they program the articulated robot in real-time. Robotic application commands are manually entered through the pendant by an operator. Each step of an application must be entered individually. Teach pendants are best for programming simple applications. The fewer the steps involved with an application the easier it will be for pendant programming. Programming the FANUC Lr Mate 200ic for automated parts transferring from a workstation to a conveyor can be done through a robotic teach pendant.
One of the main advantages of teach pendants is that they come packaged with robots, so there is no extra cost for a programming system. If you purchase a Motoman MA1400, it will usually include a teach pendant unless stated otherwise. Another plus is because they are so common, most robot operators are already familiar with how to use them.
Since teach pendants are an online programming method, the robot must be present, causing downtime from productions. Downtime can be long if programming a complex application since it is time consuming to manually enter commands and the more complex an application, the more commands there will be.
Offline Robot ProgrammingOffline robot programming is becoming a popular alternative to teach pendant programming. As industrial robots advance, technology like offline programming has become more compatible. Many new industrial robots feature offline programming capabilities and have it available as an option. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic can be programmed offline as well as the ABB 4600-60. Offline programming involves using a software program on an external computer to create the application commands. This programming method is done outside of the production environment and does not involve the actual robot. Offline robot simulation is often used in conjunction with offline programming in order to test an application by emulating the production environment through simulation. This programming method is ideal for complex applications, applications with large workpieces, low volume productions, or productions with a high mix of parts.
One of the biggest advantages offline programming has over teach pendants is it eliminates programming downtime. If an application program needs to be changed it can be done while the FANUC M-710ic/50 is still operating. Whereas if using a pendant, the M-710ic/50 would need to be taken out of production. It also allows for faster programming of complex applications by at least one-tenth compared to pendant programming.
The main disadvantage of offline programming is the need for additional equipment. Most offline software programs must be purchased separate from the robot and they require the use of a computer to run.