Why Robot Programming is Important?

Person using a UR robot

Robots can do a lot these days. But, why is robot programming so important? Here are 10 explanations of why the programming software and language are key.

At its most basic level, robot programming is what turns your ideas into actions of the robot. As one programmer explains “[Programming languages] allow programmers to effectively communicate with the machines that they program.”

There are a variety of choices you can make before you get started with robot programming, including:

  • Which programming language will I use?
  • Which programming environment is best?
  • What method of robot programming will I choose?
  • Which programming plugins do I need?
  • etc

Many robot users don’t consider such questions. They just use whichever programming options are provided by the robot manufacturer or integrator. Then, they struggle through, not getting the most out of their robot.

Why is programming so important?

Just as spoken communication is vital to running an effective human team, programming is vital to running an effective robot application.

Here are 10 explanations as to why the choice of a programming approach is vital:

1. It’s the Foundation for a Successful Robot Deployment

Some people think that the most important choice you can make in a robot deployment is to pick the right robot model. Of course, the choice of model is important. However, it is only secondary to the choice of the robot programming method.

Programming is the foundation of any robot deployment. When you choose the right method (which includes programming software, programming language, etc) you set yourself up for success.

2. It Determines What’s Possible

The way that you program your robot will affect what you can achieve with it.

For example, if you use hand-guiding (a programming method where you physically move the robot around) you will be able to program the robot quickly… but it will restrict the accuracy and complexity of the program. This would be fine for simple pick-and-place operations, but if you wanted to use robot machining to create a complex geometric structure you’d need to incorporate more advanced programming tools.

3. It Drastically Affects Deployment Time

Robotics can save you time in a whole bunch of ways, including reducing cycle time, time to market, and changeover times. But, the way that you program will have a huge effect on these time savings. Some programming methods can take days to reprogram even a simple task. Others allow you to reprogram the robot in a matter of minutes.

Programming methods that are easier to use can significantly reduce the initial deployment time.

4. It Affects Reuse

If you choose the right robot programming software that automatically generates the robot program, you can make it much easier to reuse and update previous code.

Indeed, it can avoid many errors that can lead to a huge waste of time.

5. It’s a Future-Proof Skill

In the age we’re living in, the skill of robot programming can be a great benefit to your career. Robotics has only just started to “go mainstream” so the demand for this skill looks likely to continue growing.

By developing robot programming skills in your team, you can future-proof the careers of your employees. You can also future-proof the security of your business as a whole by allowing it to adapt to the changing market.

6. It Can Make Life Easy or Hard

The decisions you make about how you program your robot can make life very easy or very hard.

Using integrated software tools (e.g. robot machining wizard or 3D printing wizards) have the power to make complex tasks simple to deploy. On the other hand, picking a more laborious programming method (e.g. programming point by point) can end in huge headaches.

7. It Allows the Team to Communicate Effectively

Imagine that you were going to build a house. In your team are yourself and a couple of builders.

You’re given a choice…

Which language do you want the team to use to communicate?

Do you all choose to speak the same language and use the same terminology? Or do you each pick a different language and different terminology?

Obviously, using the same language is going to make your life much easier! There are many different programming options for robotics. If your team is all “talking the same language” about robotics it becomes much easier to communicate about them.

8. It Affects System Flexibility

Some people say that it doesn’t matter what programming language you use.

In a way, this is true — it’s how well you use the programming language that really matters. However, you don’t want an inflexible programming environment that will restrict you from using the programming language that you are most comfortable with.

This is why a programming environment that is compatible with multiple languages is important. It helps your robotic system to be as flexible.

9. It Can Create a Thriving Robotics Culture

Robotics is not just a “set it and forget it” type of automation technology. It is most powerful when you start to incorporate it into the culture of your business. When your team members are actively engaged in making robotics work for you, they will find more and more ways that robots can be used to improve your processes.

This type of continuous innovation is only possible when the robot programming method you choose makes it easy for the team to get involved.

10. It’s an Opportunity to Grow

Robotics is often synonymous with growth. When robotic automation comes into a business for the first time, it is often because the business needs to “level up” its manufacturing processes to allow for more orders, for example.

Robot programming facilitates this growth, but it also helps to grow the business in other ways. It allows the team to grow by adding new skills and it allows production capabilities to grow by increasing the flexibility of the manufacturing process.

If you’re new to robot programming, you’ve got a bit of a learning curve whichever method of programming you choose. But, now that you know why robot programming is so important, you’re all set to get off to an explosive start!

What programming choices have you been stuck over in the past? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or in the RoboDK Forum. Also, check out our extensive video collection and subscribe to the RoboDK YouTube Channel

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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