What is a Teach Pendant?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A teach pendant is a device which can be used to control a robot remotely. Using a teach pendant, someone can work with a robot without being tethered to a fixed terminal. These devices are used to control robots in a wide variety of settings, and by people who research and develop robots. Numerous companies manufacture teach pendants or recondition pendants so that they can be purchased used by cost-conscious consumers.

A teach pendant is used to control robots.
A teach pendant is used to control robots.

Several features are included on a typical teach pendant. The device usually has an emergency stop button, so that operations can be immediately shut down if there is a problem, as might occur when a robot appears to be malfunctioning. There is also a display which can be used to see and edit commands, and to look through the history of commands given to the robot, along with a keyboard for command input. The type of keyboard can vary, depending on the type of robot the teach pendant is designed to control.

With a teach pendant, someone can program a robot remotely, issue commands to a robot to tell it to do things, or teach the robot to perform tasks. People can walk alongside the robot as it is in operation, using the teach pendant to provide the robot with commands and feedback, and they can also operate the robot from a distance. Teach pendants may also include specialty features tailored to particular applications such as robotic surgery or robotic manufacturing.

Enterprising people working in the field of robotics may make their own teach pendants for projects, because a generic pendant will not work as well, or out of a general interest in building a robot and a control system from the ground up. Teach pendants can also be developed specially for particular uses when a generic pendant will not be sufficient. Manufacturers of robots and robotics supplies typically have a range of teach pendants available for their customers.

The hand held nature of a teach pendant can greatly improve the robotics experience by allowing people a free range of movement around the robot. Rather than having to interface with the robot directly or having to work with a terminal, the operator can work remotely. This can increase safety in addition to making robotics work easier; for example, the robots used by bomb squads are operated remotely so that a human is not put in danger when the squad is working with a suspicious package.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Charred - I don’t know much about what the Japanese have done, but the Germans have accomplished amazing things in the field of robotics.

Kuka robots are heavy duty machines, and they have one model that they claim has a super strong arm which can load a cargo of over 1,000 kg.

I don’t think it will achieve intelligence anytime soon, but it can manipulate just about any payload for most industrial applications.


@NathanG - It's only a matter of time. I watched the movie Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams, who basically played a domestic helper robot that eventually gains consciousness. It’s a fascinating study into robots, but also the meaning of consciousness and ultimately identity.

The Japanese have already built and sold some of their own domestic robots but they are nothing like what Hollywood shows. They are still somewhat clunky and difficult to move around-climbing steps still remains the biggest challenge.

However, I think one day these robots will become more and more human-life, eventually serving as worthwhile household companions, like pets are today.


Industrial robots are used in a variety of industries, but I usually see them in the automotive industry where they assemble cars as the chassis are pushed down the assembly line. I think it’s obvious these machines are more precise than human hands, but of course their use means fewer jobs for mere mortals.

I’m all for automation but I think the advances in robot and computer technology will have the effect of continually displacing human labor, constantly forcing us to learn new skills that will revolve around those few tasks that machines are still unable to perform.

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