15 Lesser-Known Facts About Industrial Robot Programming

There are a few common misconceptions about industrial robot programming. Here are 15 facts you might not know about it!

How much do you know about programming industrial robots?

Where are the gaps in your knowledge?

Do you know what you don’t know?

There are quite a few common misconceptions about robot programming. Here are some facts that you might not be aware of.

1. Robots Can Be Programmed Using Any Language

We often think of the “industrial robot languages” (e.g. VAL, KAREL, etc) as being the only languages to program a robot. If you’ve read our previous article, you might also list C++, Python or Matlab. But, really you could use any of the 1500 programming languages, if you really wanted to. You’d just have to write a suitable RoboDK wrapper.

2. Robotic Process Automation Is Not About Programming Robots

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is extremely popular at the moment. Despite the name, it has absolutely nothing to do with programming industrial robots. Instead, it refers to programming “software robots” (little software programs that mimic human actions in a computer). For some reason, few people seem to realize this distinction.

3. Programming Difficulty is Up to You

Some people say that robot programming is difficult, but really the difficulty of programming is up to you. For example, many of our users just use the graphical interface and move the robot around in the simulation. But, you also can choose to use a more advanced programming language if you prefer.

4. You Don’t Need To Be A Programmer

We are currently in the middle of a shift in robotics. In the past, you had to be an experienced robot programmer to do anything with a robot. Now, almost anybody can program a robot. Easier options for robot programming include hand-guiding and offline programming.

5. Robot Programming Is the Next Big Job

A common concern by many people is that robots will steal people’s jobs, but this threat is widely misunderstood. In actual fact, you’re much more likely to get a job because of your robot programming skill than you are to lose your job to a robot. Tech Republic has called robot programming “the next big job in tech.”

6. There’s No “Best Programming Language”

If you’ve ever read a robotics forum around the topic of robot programming, you’ll see a lot of responses from people saying “this programming language is the best” and listing their own favorite robot programming language.

Since I wrote this viral article three years ago, many people have published their own blog posts saying that Python and C++ are “the best.” However, really there is no best programming language for industrial robots. The choice is very subjective.

7. Robots Are All Different and All the Same

A paradoxical fact here. Industrial robots are all different… but they’re also all the same. By that, I mean that each robot manufacturer has its own programming language and each robot model has its own quirks; however, they can all be programmed in the same way using offline programming.

8. Programming Can Be Super-Quick

If you’ve done any programming, you’ll know that it can take ages. But, it doesn’t have to take a long time. You can program an industrial robot in a matter of minutes for simple tasks. This is useful because many industrial tasks are very simple.

9. Small Production Runs Are Possible

The time it takes to reprogram a robot means that — traditionally — you could only use industrial robots for long production runs. Not any more! Because of the time savings in modern programming methods, you can run tiny production runs as easily as long runs.

10. Programming Robots Can Be Easier Than CNC

Many of us were taught CNC programming with G-Code when we learned engineering. As a result, people can think that CNC programming is easier than programming a robot. In reality, robot programming can be much easier due to the high degree of flexibility it offers to programmers.

11. AI Programming Is Easy to Use

You might think that artificial intelligence programming is complex and difficult. In some cases, you would be right. However, there are easy-to-use AI tools that can be used to program an industrial robot in just a few clicks, like our automatic path planner. Just because it’s AI doesn’t mean it’s difficult.

12. The Manufacturer’s Not Always Right About Programming

The manufacturer of your robot will be the best port of call for many questions about your model. However, when it comes to programming they are not always right. It’s important to remember that the manufacturer has a vested interest in you using their programming tools, which are not the only tools available.

13. A Robot Is Only As Good As Its Program

You can hear a lot of marketing claims about the productivity benefits of using a robot in your factory. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a robot is only as good as its program. This fact is not often mentioned in those same marketing materials. A badly programmed robot could end up less productive than not using a robot at all.

14. You Can Program With Your Favorite CAD Package

Traditionally, there has been a big disconnect between robot programming packages and the CAD packages that we use to design products. You might not know yet… but this disconnect no longer exists. You can program the robot seamlessly with your favorite CAD package by using plugins to RoboDK.

15. No Programming Advice Is Really Unbiased

An important point to remember is that any advice about robot programming is going to be a little bit biased. We are writing this post because RoboDK is very flexible when it comes to robot programming — you can use it with whichever programming language and approach you like. However, we are still biased (of course) because we made RoboDK.

Whenever you read advice about robot programming, remember that it’s only advice.

Hopefully, this list has provided at least a couple of facts that you didn’t know about industrial robot programming.

Which items on the list were obvious to you and which were surprising? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or in the RoboDK Forum.

Alex Owen-Hill

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 CreateClarifyArticulate.com, 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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