Robot programming methods have greatly evolved since industrial robots, and cobots have gained popularity in manufacturing environments as companies transition to automated workflows and Industry 4.0.
Conventionally, robot programming methods were extremely complex and tedious. Robotics programming could only be performed by seasoned specialists with specific programming language knowledge.
It often takes a lot of training for in-house staff to understand and implement robot programming methodologies. Moreover, the programmed tasks have to be constantly changed for high-mix, low-volume productions.
Even for low-mix, high-volume applications, many robot operators experienced incessant reprogramming requirements due to errors and adjustments for tool paths, end positions, and overall robot motions.
The end result?
While robots were hailed as a means to boost productivity, reduce production and HR expenditures, and maintain production capacity, many companies noticed that robot programming was time-consuming and expensive.
From the man hours to the robot downtimes to fix programs, robot programming methods were expensive, to say the least.
According to many experts, robot programming accounts for a substantial portion of the overall cost of robot adoption and the lead time of robot deployments.
Typical Robot Programming Methods
To simplify robot programming methods, robotics manufacturers have developed new ways for operators to set up their robots and cobots for specific tasks. These include:
- Co-ordinates: Joint, global, tool and workpiece coordinates are common robot programming methods. Each method leverages multiple moves of each axis/joint, the robot’s overall axis system, the center point of the tool (TCP), or the coordinate system of the entire robotic cell.
- Teach pendants: Robots are manually driven, with different coordinate systems, so they can “learn” the paths and positions to take.
- Offline programming: Using CAD models of the parts to be processed or tended, offline robot programming enables experts to create a program and accompanying path data, which is ideal for complex, high-mix production environments.
As much as these methods have facilitated robot programming, they nevertheless still take time and necessitate the work of knowledgeable programmers, who are difficult to recruit during an unprecedented labor shortage. Statistics show that a lack of homogenous programming platforms is still to blame.
Luckily, new solutions are emerging to take the guesswork out of robot programs and programming methods.
Robot Programming Methods: Innovations Help Win Back Valuable Hours
Zero-coding approaches to robot programming are surfacing as viable alternatives to the cumbersome techniques used in the past. Because they democratize automation and robotics programming, no-code robotics offer many benefits, including: closing the skills gap, tackling a lack of qualified programmers, reducing training time and costs in different languages, and, inevitably, augmenting production flexibility and performance.
Companies can drastically slash robotics implementation and operational costs by winning back valuable hours.
Universal Robots was the first robotics manufacturer to take a new spin on robot programming methods. With its intuitive learning platform and robotics kits, programming robots and cobots were made easy.
Other pioneers aim to level up the simplicity of robot programming methods and integrate them with Universal Robots’ solutions. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
CoboVox elevates the robot programming game by helping users to use simple voice commands and instructions, with a wide variety of synonyms, to set up programming paths for cobots. This solution ensures fast, intuitive programming freeing the operator’s hands and reducing installation time.
Not interested in being locked into a single robotics brand? Ready Robotics’ Forge/OS features a graphical user interface that improves operator accessibility to run all types of robotics systems, manage changeovers, and touch up programs for new parts or to recover a process.
Wandelbot’s ergonomic input pen acts like a computer mouse to program and control industrial robots. Akin to manual procedures, the pen is used to seamlessly teach a robot or cobot its tasks for workpieces in minutes.
Nordbo’s Mimic joystick allows users to record, preview and optimize the movements of a robot or cobot, guiding their speeds, orientations, and paths. Nordbo is particularly conducive to craftspeople’s operations, such as pick-and-place, painting, and dispensing actions.
These robot programming companies are just some of the many trying to eliminate the hassles of robot programming methods. The improvements can indeed be impressive. For example, tests carried out by CoboVox showed that voice-enabled collaborative programming can decrease installation costs by over 50% and robot downtimes by 43%.
Simplified robot programming methods, such as those mentioned above, are very versatile for various industrial robot applications, such as handling, welding, assembling, and dispensing. Educational institutions and trade schools are also considering using these methods to better teach robot programming in non-programming classes.
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