Offline Programming

A software-based process for production-ready robot programs: Tapping new potentials for manufacturing excellence and efficiency

Generating production-ready robot programs in a virtual simulation environment saves up to 80% of development time and has positive effects on overall plant effectiveness. Successful integration of offline programming with existing production and operating procedures also offers manufacturing enterprises a boost in productivity and flexibility and opens up new technology potentials.

Business Potentials of Offline Programming

As a digital process, offline programming increases the effects and success of investments in automation because it lets businesses exploit the full performance potential of their production facilities. 

The robot program is developed offline in a PC-based software environment. The ongoing manufacturing process is therefore not interrupted, and the robot cells remain productive.

Working in a 3D simulation environment, offline programmers produce results far more quickly than in manual programming. This makes ambitious production targets viable even for small lot sizes and a wider range of variants. 

Additionally, the software can provide support via semi-automated optimization, potentially backed by artificial intelligence. These and other features of offline programming let businesses employ more innovative and more complex manufacturing procedures. 

If and when the process can be digitally embedded in upstream and downstream product creation processes, additional positive effects can be reaped, e.g. a higher data dividend, improved work efficiency and better quality in collaboration.

Increasing efficiency in robot welding production Crown uses offline programming of welding cells. Increased equipment efficiency, reduced programming times and optimized fixtures for high weld quality. Read more about
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Offline programming of robots: Approach and definition

To examine the influence of offline programming on value addition, we must first define the process. As an introduction, here’s the scenario in brief: Before a production cell can start processing a new manufacturing order, the robot(s) need to be programmed with reference to the component data and the required processing steps. This can be done manually via a so-called teach-in or teaching, in which the programmer generates the program via an interface connected directly to the robot.

Offline programming takes a different approach: This method relies on a digital simulation of the robot cell. The robot program for the desired processing result (i.e. a defined production quality within a required timeframe and compliant with safety regulations) is created in a virtual, software-based environment.

The goal of offline programming is to generate production-ready robot programs that can be uploaded directly to the facility for immediate productive use.

Offline Programming (OLP): An Overview
  • Generating a robot program via a 3D simulation of the real-world manufacturing cell
  • Resolving combined optimization tasks with support from OLP software: Cycle time, manufacturing quality, robot movement and coordination, placement of fixtures, accessibility aspects
  • Testing of various scenarios in a secure, controlled environment
  • The real production cell can continue to work on the current manufacturing order until the new robot program is uploaded

What makes offline robot programming business-critical?

Secure investments in automation

Offline programming ensures that the robots on your shopfloor deliver maximum performance at all times – thanks to continual utilization, but also because they can now manage more complex tasks. This protects your investments in automation.

Future-proof manufacturing

Get your production ready for Advanced Manufacturing and new production procedures. Offline programming lets your team overcome programming challenges that can only be managed in a simulation environment. Additionally, you take a further step toward end-to-end digital support throughout product creation.

Market resilience and agility

The latest order is still being processed while the next is being readied for immediate upload. Offline programming lets you operate proactively, respond quickly to changing conditions, and reliably plan and satisfy cost limits and delivery deadlines.

OLP for added value in product creation

Efficient data usage

By definition, offline programming is a form of process digitalization, and that means it offers added value benefits during the product creation process.

For example, benefits in terms of efficient data usage: Since process definition occurs directly within the 3D model, the need for work- and time-intensive technical drawings (reckon 1-2 days per drawing) is virtually eliminated. Data losses, redundancies and inconsistencies are likewise reduced. If your business has already implemented a consistent 3D master concept, tooling information e.g., for welding seams and cutting contours can be derived directly from the component data.

OLP also contributes to paperless manufacturing: Process parameters and technology values are stored within the software. And because the entire process is a digital one, all programming can also be documented at the push of a (virtual) button – a major benefit come audit time!

Previously generated programs can be called up by the software, and that of course makes them reusable. The programmers can learn from them and further refine them – in future, likely assisted by AI.

Workplace efficiency and effectiveness

All the above aside: Offline programming is one of the technologies that directly reduces staff workload. They don’t have to stand in the cell for days at a time to teach the robots, under time pressure at that – instead they can develop the new robot program at their workstations while the cell is still in operation. OLP software not only supports them via the simulation’s 360-degree field of view, but also – depending on layout and integration depth – by way of technology-related rules and features for semi-automated workflow generation (e.g., optimal approach and retraction movements).

From a business point of view, this is a major bonus when viewed against the background of the pervasive shortages in skilled labor: The use of standard parameters and methodologies quickly lets even staff without specialized knowledge achieve good results. The knowledge stored in the IT can be retrieved easily, it’s no longer kept in someone’s head. This is also valuable in international projects that involve staff from multiple countries.

The combined effects of associated processes

Generating a robot program is associated with other product creation processes, and in this sense offline programming naturally has wider implications.
For instance, early-stage reliance on the simulation environment offers greater decision-making security and planning flexibility: 

  • Approachability testing within the simulation environment offers information on whether a given component can be manufactured within the planned cell.
  • Geometric analyses of the processing facility let the engineers determine approximate processing times. 
  • The disassociation of process planning from the physical commissioning of the cell offers greater flexibility throughout the job planning process. 
  • If the OLP software can be used to program robots by different manufacturers, staff can be deployed flexibly. 
  • The insights gained in 3D simulation make fixture construction more efficient and may even provide solutions without involving the design division.

Virtual 3D simulation environment as an innovation space

In the search for the best robot program, offline programming opens up a limitless arena for experimentation. The virtual space offers all-round visibility with viewing angles that cannot exist in the real world. Movement manipulation is instantaneous and risk-free for people and machinery. That means maximum trial-and-error freedom on the way to the best solution.

These superior features pave a high-speed road to success. Where manual programming usually takes several days, OLP reduces the work to a few hours. The properties described above make even the most complex manufacturing techniques viable.

Given sufficient digital maturity, the potentials of this virtual testing setup can be expanded still further – in such cases, offline programming can be integrated into the true digital twin of the production cell. 

Further pages on the topic

IT for robotics in automotive
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Blog Home Office for Robot Operators? Challenges open up unexpected opportunities. In the field of digital factory and robot software, many things in planning and engineering can already be done remotely and offline. But for those who are responsible for production execution, home office… Read more about
Blog Digital Production: Data Continuity from Design to Manufacturing "Increase your degree of automation and increase productivity," was the previous motto. True, but the productivity gained is lost again if, due to a lack of data continuity between departments, e.g. information already defined in design cannot be… Read more about

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Transformation Tasks

What are the preconditions?

The first step is to ascertain that existing robot facilities are ready for offline programming. That requires calibration to ensure that there are no discrepancies between the simulation and the real-world facility. Additionally, component data must be available in 3D-CAD form. And it’s helpful if the business uses a 3D master which ensures continual data exchange between development and production.

The Transformation Role of Offline Programming
  • Calibration of the facility 
  • End-to-end digital connectivity between the manufacturing and development divisions

How do you adapt the process?

Introducing an OLP process means change, and change needs to be managed. Now, more information will be available for the various planning tasks at an earlier stage of the process sequence. Standard workflows will look different and the interaction between company divisions will run on different tracks. Particularly where the goal is to automate a previously manual production step, aspects like assembly sequence, process and capacity planning, manufacturing sequence, etc. will change – almost disruptively so.

In all cases, such changes represent an opportunity to make workflows and data usage more efficient. The first step is to implement a stable process with an attractive cost-/time-saving potential. The second step can build on this foundation and address connectivity with design and fixture construction on the one hand and production and process documentation on the other, all aimed at exploiting additional benefit potentials.

To ensure that your employees on the ground support the changes, you have to invest in their technology and process know-how – training and skill-building is indispensable. 

How do you adapt your technology and your IT?

Getting started with offline programming means taking stock of your existing production facilities, workflows, technologies and standards. To make sure that the OLP process meshes seamlessly with other operational processes, your manufacturing environment and upstream/downstream processes must be examined as well. The decisive aspect is that the selected software is suited to the type of manufacturing, the status of your machine pool and your business model (e.g., job order manufacturing vs. series manufacturing).

FASTSUITE Edition 2 Learn about the benefits of simulating and programming industrial robots and machines with FASTSUITE Edition 2. Read more about

In step with changing times

The goal of your manufacturing division is to make products, not robot programs. But offline programming helps it do just that because it paves an especially efficient road to production-ready robot programs and offers new opportunities for making innovative products that meet or exceed customer expectations.

It is a digital process that lets you invest in continual quality improvement – product quality, production quality, workflow quality – which in turn boosts customer satisfaction and your operating profit.

Offline programming is one building block of digital progress in manufacturing. As such, it is a good complement to concepts for integrated data usage across the entire product lifecycle, such as the digital twin.

And it’s a reminder of why we must urgently rethink the way we approach programming processes.

Driving digitalization

By implementing OLP, businesses achieve a higher level of digital maturity in manufacturing, enabling optimized processes, boosting productivity, and saving a great deal of time and money.

Ready for the future

OLP contributes to end-to-end digital management of product lifecycles and efficiently enables innovations that can easily be implemented even by non-experts.

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