Everything You Need To Know About Industrial And Collaborative Robot Programming
In today’s age of automation, Oxford Economics, a UK-based research firm, estimates that 20 million jobs will be wiped out by robots globally by 2030. While this may be bad news for some, it also means that more jobs would be created in the robotics and automation industry.
Roles such as robotics technician or robotics programmer — the next big job in tech!
If you are a robotics enthusiast, an aspiring robotics programmer, or simply just curious about how robots are programmed, this is the right place for you!
Here are some common questions for those interested in learning robotic programming:
What is the difference between industrial robots and collaborative robots?
The two main types of robots are traditional industrial robots and collaborative robots.
Industrial robots are heavy-duty robots that do work in place of humans. They are usually used in manufacturing factories to automate repetitive work that is dangerous or dirty with a high degree of precision. These robots have a longer return on investment (ROI) as they are complex to install and are more expensive.
On the other hand, collaborative robots (cobots) assist humans with their work. As co-workers, they help to automate processes alongside human workers safely. Cobots are usually cheaper and have a faster ROI. As such, they are usually a go-to option for SMEs looking to integrate robotics into their business.
Both types of robots help to increase productivity and quality of production, freeing up humans to focus on more elaborate tasks that require human thinking.
Purpose of programming robots — what do you want them to help you with?
Before you start programming, you need to know what is the task that you want your robot to perform in order to train it effectively.
The complexity of automating a process depends on the type of task chosen.
A suitable task would be one that is repetitive, easy and has a high production volume.
Common basic operations include picking, packing and palletizing.
More complex or specialised operations usually involve the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
For example Singrow, a developer of innovative agritechnology solutions, uses an AI model that is integrated with a robotic arm to pick out ripe strawberries. Leveraging the use of cobot helps them to automate their entire agricultural system from breeding to harvesting.
What are the parts to programming a robot?
There are many different types of programming languages in robotics. The more commonly used ones are C/C++ and Python.
So between C/C++ and Python, which language should you learn?
It actually depends on the task complexity that the robot is going to perform.
Python has many libraries which makes it easy to implement basic functionalities. Hence, for simpler robot programs, or as a beginner to the world of coding, learning python is a good choice to start. Moreover, python has an easier syntax than C++, which makes it easier to learn.
However, C++ is usually best suited for fast and complex computations, which is a must for most standard robot programs.
There are two main types of programming methods, online programming and offline programming.
1. Online programming
Online programming means programming the robot while the robot is online, in a production environment. It consists of two main methods — Lead-through and Teach-in.
Lead-through programming includes continuous path control, where the programmer leads the robot manually within the desired path. The action is then recorded into the computer system, which can then be played back, allowing the robot to complete the task by itself.
Ease of use due to the intuitive nature of physical guidance
Less time to finish programming one waypoint
Less precise positioning
Need extra sensors
More time to program multiple waypoints
Most industrial robots don’t have lead-through programming
This method is often used for robots specialising in spray painting or contour welding.
A teach pendant is a handheld interface device used to program a robot. In teach mode, a programmer can control a robot’s movements at each step until the desired position is achieved. The coordinates of each point is recorded by the teach pendant and stored in a program.
You can visualise what you are programming — not just lines and lines of codes
Collisions and inaccuracies are detected immediately
Easiest for those without programming experience
Hard to create complex programs
Robot workspace is occupied during programming, creating robot downtime
This method is often used for pick in place and spot welding.
2. Offline programming
Offline programming means programming the robot without being present next to it, outside of a production environment. It is easier for non-programmers to code via offline programming.
The program is first created on a computer, where a programmer simulates the robot’s movements within a virtual environment. During stimulation, all collisions can be easily recognized. This helps the programmer to write programs to tackle these possible collisions and stimulate test runs. The final program is then loaded into the robot.
Reduction in downtime
Faster robot integration
Easy to test different methods to the same problem
Every part of the robot can be viewed in the virtual environment, which is difficult to access in real life
Need Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
May have a longer teaching time (simulation + testing)
Need high level of technical expertise to program
The New Way: Unified and Codeless Robot Programming
If you are someone who finds traditional programming too challenging or time-consuming to learn, or simply dislike writing code, then codeless programming is an ultimate life-saviour for you.
Instead of writing lines of codes, simply draw robot paths over components using a graphical interface to program the robot’s movements.
With codeless programming, operators can focus less on the technical aspects of robotics, and instead focus more on the design considerations of robots.
One example of codeless programming is Augmentus’ unified and code-free robotic automation platform, which combines the advantages of offline programming with the ease of use feature of lead-through programming. Augmentus allows non-programmers to code out a full-fledged robotic program easily with high accuracy.
Robot programming is not easy. It is important to first understand the different types of programming methods and choose the best method that aligns with the robot’s application.
While it depends on personal preferences, the quickest and easiest way to program a robot is still to make use of existing codeless programming software in the market like Augmentus.
Augmentus offers the leading full-stack code-free robotic automation platform that enables anyone, even those with no robotic experience, to develop robotic systems. We have partnerships with the world’s leading robot manufacturers and automation providers to empower manufacturers to recoup ROI faster by lowering time, cost and skill barriers in robotic automation.
Augmentus ushers in a new era of human-machine interface, enabling 10X faster system deployments and saving thousands of automation costs within weeks of integration.
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Cobots vs. industrial robots: what are the differences?
What Is the Best Way to Program a Robot?