Offline Programming Increases Uninterrupted Robot Work

Mar 10, 2016

Robot programming is conducted by a hand-held device called a teach pendant which has numerous buttons to program the robot on-site. Offline programming (OLP) is also becoming available so that a graphical representation is available for viewing anywhere. Offline programming allows programming of robots outside of the production without any stoppage, reducing the overall downtime.


Indus­tri­al robots typ­i­cal­ly oper­ate in iso­lat­ed cir­cum­stances and use a teach pen­dant to pro­gram each robot and con­duct refine­ments or mod­i­fi­ca­tions when it begins to work. This pen­dant is a hand-held device, typ­i­cal­ly attached direct­ly to the robot, which has numer­ous but­tons and a screen to pro­gram the robot on-site. This means that the robot is required to be iso­lat­ed from the pro­duc­tion line and not do any work while this is happening. 

How­ev­er, robot pro­gram­ming life isn’t look­ing so iso­lat­ed or bor­ing any­more. Offline pro­gram­ming (OLP), in the form of indus­tri­al robot sim­u­la­tion soft­ware, is rel­a­tive­ly new but is quick­ly gain­ing speed and pop­u­lar­i­ty. It is able to cre­ate a graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, avail­able to view any­where, of the entire work space that includes the robot and all the machines and instru­ments that are connected. 

The advan­tages of OLD are end­less as it allows the pro­gram­ming of robots out­side of the pro­duc­tion with­out any stop­page; this reduces pro­duc­tion down­time from at least 110 or from 40 hours to less than 4 hours. This ulti­mate­ly results in a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in pro­duc­tion down­time caused by teach pro­gram­ming and cuts adop­tion of new pro­gram time from weeks to a sin­gle day. There are also cal­i­bra­tion fea­tures avail­able to help guar­an­tee the pre­ci­sion and speed of the programs. 

Gen­er­al Motors is one of the first to con­nect its robots to a cen­tral­ized cloud in order to keep things con­stant­ly up and run­ning. There is an esti­ma­tion of around sev­er­al thou­sand cus­tomized Fanuc robots that are cur­rent­ly using offline and online meth­ods. These sys­tems also enable back-ups and con­sis­tent mon­i­tor­ing in order to gain knowl­edge of any prob­lems, opti­mal per­for­mance, and the final quality.

Toy­ota uses a Coor­di­nate Mea­sur­ing Machine to con­firm a car body’s accu­ra­cy that can then be shared auto­mat­i­cal­ly to Toy­ota Motor Cor­po­ra­tion in order to be con­stant­ly viewed and checked. 

As you can see, big com­pa­nies such as Toy­ota and GM are already using OLP to decrease down­time and enable world­wide data and pro­gram­ming access. For­tu­nate­ly, the offline pro­gram­ming mar­ket is no longer only afford­able for big com­pa­nies; it is quick­ly work­ing its way into all automa­tion sys­tems, big and small. 

The intim­i­da­tion of expens­es and/​or com­plex­i­ties for inte­grat­ing a robot into an offline sys­tem won’t be valid for long. The huge mar­ket demands and hasti­ly advanc­ing tech­nol­o­gy are giv­ing rise to mul­ti­ple, afford­able soft­ware options. The com­pe­ti­tion between the options will con­tin­ue to push the prices and sys­tem com­plex­i­ties down. 

This is evi­dent as con­nec­tions to the cloud have already become sim­pli­fied. Indus­tri­al robots do not take a ded­i­cat­ed IT team or spe­cial hard­ware to auto­mat­i­cal­ly trans­fer a pro­gram from the com­put­er to the robot. It should be as easy as down­load­ing a file from a web­site that will then make the robot pro­gram acces­si­ble from any­where in the world. Pret­ty soon you could have a small num­ber of staff man­ag­ing hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of machines or data from remote locations.

Although teach pen­dants do still have their place when it comes to oper­a­tions that have sim­ple robot­ic move­ments it seems as if indus­tri­al robots will soon be set to have a life of work using offline pro­gram­ming. Offline pro­gram­ming is an incred­i­ble soft­ware solu­tion to help reduce cost­ly down­time and elim­i­nate the need to take the robot away from the auto­mat­ed cell. Con­tact Robots​.com, a cer­ti­fied inte­gra­tor for Fanuc, Motoman, KUKA, Uni­ver­sal Robots, and ABB, if you are inter­est­ed in learn­ing more: 8777626881 or online.

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