Robots can be programmed in different ways, and while most people assume that programming is only done by typing code on a computer screen. Writing a program for the earliest programmers involved punching holes into long paper strips and feeding them into a computer. Program reload a matter of winding the strips into a spool, hazardous for programmers who endured paper cuts.
Modern programming for robots has evolved since then, but eventually, all instructions end up as mere ones and zeros, known as binary. Nowadays, different methods of entering the binary bits into a robot, and some do not even need the programmer to acquire formal programming training.
Robot programming is no longer about low-level coding but involves more intuitive methods, making programming much easier. Robot operators are not the ones who make the robots, and the ones who build the robots are not always the best for programming the robot for specific tasks. For example, a painter would be far more suited to program painting robots than a programmer who knows nothing about painting.
The three methods of programming include:
1. Teaching Pendant
The most popular robot programming method is the teach pendant, which has evolved but consists of what appears to be a large, handheld calculator. The teach pendants today look like touchscreen tablets.
Programming the robot involves moving between points and using the pendant buttons to move it to different positions and saving them. When the robot has learned the whole program, the robot plays back each point at maximum speed.
Most conventional industrial robots come with teaching pendants, making them easier for technicians to operate. They also allow for accurate positioning via numerical co-ordinates and are also suitable for simple painting on a significant flat surface or a straight line.
2. Simulation or Offline Programming
Simulation or offline programming is used in robotics research. It is used for ensuring advanced control algorithms operate at an optimum level before transferring them into a real-life robot. Simulation is also used in industries for downtime reduction and efficiency improvement.
Simulation is useful in SMEs as they have a higher chance of reconfiguring robots several times if they work in multiple mass productions. Offline programming allows production to go on seamlessly, and the robots can be programmed via a virtual robot and task mockup.
Some simulators allow for CAD part entry, where the system automatically generates the trajectory for the robot, improving programming efficiency.
3. Teaching via Demonstration
Teaching via demonstration with methods such as Kinetiq teaching is an intuitive plus to the teach pendant. These methods comprise moving the robot from point-to-point by manipulating a joystick or force sensor attached to the robot’s wrist just above the end effector.
Just like the teach pendant, the robot operator saves every position in the robot software. Most collaborative robots use this programming method to make it easier for them to start using robots without much training.
This method is faster to use than the conventional teach pendants. It eliminates the need for pressing multiple buttons, allowing the robot to be moved to any position. The teaching by demonstration is more intuitive than conventional teach and offline programming. You can program the task the same way as a human operator would. This method does not require any programming concept or 3D CAD knowledge and is good for intricate tasks that require a lot of code, such as painting complex shapes or welding.
Robot programming has come a long way from the strips of punched papers, with software making it easier and painless. The three programming methods give robot operators a choice, with each method having its pros and cons. After evaluating your needs, the pros and cons of each method, you can decide which programming method you will use for your robot.