CNC Robot Programming in 7 Easy Steps

Is CNC robot programming easy enough that you should consider a machining robot?

You’re looking to improve your CNC process…

Should you just purchase another conventional CNC machine? Sure, it ties you to particular machining processes, but at least CNC programming is familiar to you…

Or could a machining robot add some extra flexibility and advanced functionality that will be beneficial to your business?

It’s easier to program a robot for CNC-style machining than you might think.

Are Robot Programming and CNC Programming Comparable?

First, it’s worth discussing whether it’s even correct to talk about using a robot for machining tasks.

Some people assert that robots shouldn’t be used for CNC machining as they don’t match the performance. However, this is a rather narrow way of thinking. It prioritizes certain measures of performance at the expense of other measures of performance.

While it’s certainly true that CNC machines have higher stiffness and accuracy than robots, they don’t excel in all properties. For example, robots are more flexible and have a bigger workspace. This allows them to handle machining tasks that would just be impossible for a conventional CNC machine.

We have talked before about the properties in which robot machining can outperform CNC machines.

Even so, it’s important to note that not all machining tasks are suitable for robotic machining. CNC machines exist for a reason and they are very good at what they do.

For some specific situations, robot machining can be an extremely effective way to add more versatile machining capabilities to your operations.

The Importance of a Good Robot Programming Tool for CNC

If you do decide that robot machining is right for your machining needs, there is one important choice that you will need to make up-front…

Which programming tool will you choose?

One reason that robot machining is a relatively new application of robotics could be because of the traditional difficulties with programming.

Programming even a simple CNC machining toolpath requires the robot to make a lot of movements. Traditionally, these would have been extremely difficult to program.

These days, some robot programming tools make it easy to create CNC robot machining programs through a dedicated machining wizard.

7 Easy Steps to Program Your Robot as a CNC Machine

Programming your robot to operate in place of a CNC is easier than you might think. You just need to get the right steps in place.

Here are 7 simple steps for reliable CNC robot programming:

1. Assess If Your Task is Suitable for a CNC Robot

CNC robots and conventional CNC machines are best suited to different types of machining. There are a few key properties that you should consider before choosing to go with one technology over the other.

Before you move forward with the deployment, decide if a robot will be suitable for your machining task.

2. Identify the Right Robot Model for Your Needs

Only some robot brands and models will be right for your machining task. You will need to select a model that suits your needs.

One property that is important for robot machining is the stiffness of the robot. Choose a robot with sufficient stiffness that its mechanical structure will not produce unhelpful vibrations.

3. Load Up the Software

Once you have identified the right robot for your CNC machining task, you just need to load up your chosen robot programming software.

If you’d like to try RoboDK, you can download your free trial copy via the download page.

4. Select Your Robot Model in the Library

Adding your chosen robot model is a simple case of going to the Robot Library and picking it from the list of available robots. We currently have over 600 robots and accessories from over 60 manufacturers.

If your chosen robot isn’t listed, just get in contact and we can add it for you.

You will also need to add your chosen machining tool to the robot setup. There are some already available in the library or you can add your own.

5. Connect With Your CAM Tool

The “business end” of your CNC robot programming will be in your CAD/CAM tool. If you’ve been using conventional CNC machines, you will be familiar with the interface of your favored CAD software.

Any CAM tool can be used to generate the machining toolpaths for CNC robot machining. But, RoboDK does have plugins for various popular CAD/CAM software packages.

6. Run the Machining Wizard

Programming the robot to follow your machining path is very easy. You just load up the RoboDK machining wizard and add your CNC file.

There are various settings you can also choose here including the tool offset, approach and retract normals, and your preferred algorithm. You can find more specific details in the documentation.

7. Download Program to the Robot

Finally, you simply need to generate your CNC robot program and download it to the robot controller itself. This can be done at the click of a button.

The robot can then follow your programmed machining path.

A Tutorial to Get Started With CNC Robot Programming

How can you get started quickly with your CNC robot programming?

A reliable way to learn how to use a new software is to watch an experienced user creating a robot machining program from scratch.

We have several dedicated video tutorials where experts from our team show how you can create a machining application easily in RoboDK. These include applications like machining with an external axis, laser cutting, 3-axis machining, and plastic deburring.

What’s stopping you from getting started with robot machining? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in the RoboDK Forum.

About Alex Owen-Hill

Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.

View all posts by Alex Owen-Hill

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