Introduction to Fanuc Robot

Learn everything you need to know to get a basic understanding of a 6-axis Fanuc robot along with start on Fanuc robot programming basics.
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A Fanuc robot is a 6-axis robot that is manufactured by Fanuc Robotics. This robot can come in many shapes and sizes.

A Fanuc robot normally comes from the factory with a coat of yellow paint.

Fanuc robot in yellow

They can be other colors though. A green Fanuc robot will denote that it is collaborative. A collaborative robot is a type of robot that you can work closely with. That means, unlike a normal robot, there is no need to put safeguarding around this type of robot.

Fanuc collaborative robot

So for a normal robot, you need safeguarding to keep the operators safe but for a collaborative robot you don’t need any safeguarding and the operators can work closely with the robot.

A silver Fanuc robot will usually denote a paint robot.

Silver Fanuc robot

For an added cost a Fanuc robot can be painted in a variety of colors depending on what company will be using them. For example, Tesla, Inc.’s robots are painted red. Lucid Group, Inc.’s robots are painted gray.

Fanuc robot custom colors

Fanuc robot controllers

Fanuc robot cabinets

There are four main styles of cabinets for each controller:

– A cabinet,

– B cabinet,

– mate cabinet,

– open-air cabinet.

Fanuc Robot cabinets

The B cabinet is easy to distinguish because it sits on the floor. The A cabinet usually sits on a stand or some sort of structure off of the ground. The mate cabinet is smaller than the A cabinet. The open-air cabinet is easily identified by the black color.

Each robot will have a designated F-number somewhere on the controller. The F-number is the serial number for the robot’s mechanical unit and the controller. The F-number is critical when calling Fanuc for technical support or spare parts.

Robot controller F-number

As a side note, each robot will come from Fanuc with a CD ROM, Compact Flash, PCMCIA card, or USB flash drive which contains software that can be used to revert the robot to factory defaults or to upgrade its features.

It’s important to know where the media drive is at all times. A copy can be sent from Fanuc, but this usually takes time and adds the cost of shipping the media drive.

Fanuc robot controller cabinets

There are five models of a Fanuc robot controller cabinet. From oldest to newest they are:

– R-J3,

– R-J3iB,

– R-30iA,

– R30iB,

– R-30iB Plus.

Fanuc robot controller cabinets

Each controller has a different set of software that has added features on top of the previous version.

The important thing you need to know about a Fanuc robot controller is that there may be a difference between them even though the cabinets might look similar. Each controller has its own set of manuals which can be found on Fanuc’s website.

Fanuc robot applications

A Fanuc robot has a moving structure which is called a mechanical unit. There are many mechanical units and they vary depending on what the robot needs to do.

For small fast and light functions, an LR mate (mini robot) or SCARA robot might be your choice.

Fanuc mechanical unit for small applications

For heavy applications, such as moving things that are as heavy and large as a vehicle, an M-2000 will be a better choice.

Fanuc mechanical unit for heavy applications

Mechanical units of a Fanuc robot

Each unit is designated by a set of numbers and letters as shown in the picture below. The first number denotes which kind of robot it is. Next is a letter that denotes the version of the mechanical unit. The number after the forward-slash will denote the payload of a non-standard robot. The last letter will describe the option of length, usually longer (L) or shorter (S) than the standard.

Fanuc mechanical unit numbers and letters.

For example, an LR Mate 200iD/14L is a small robot with the D revision that has a 14 kg payload with a long reach.

LR Mate 200iD-14L Fanuc robot.

Another example is an M-10iD/12 which is an M-10 robot with a 12 kg payload.

M-10iD - 12 Fanuc robot.

Each robot has a designated reach which is called out in millimeters. Each robot also has a work envelope to show how far the robot can turn in reference to J1.

Robot reach and work envelope

You can use the robot finder tool from Fanuc’s website to help you identify which robot should be used for your application.

It is also important to remember that each mechanical unit uses grease to lubricate each joint of the robot. Like the oil in your vehicle, the grease needs to be changed periodically. Be sure to check your robot’s mechanical unit maintenance manual for more details.

Jogging or moving a Fanuc robot

We will now describe how to jog a robot that has been shipped from the factory without any setup or configuration. To jog the robot you will need to understand how the Deadman switch works.

The deadman switch is a three-position switch. When in the released or tightly gripped position the robot is in an unmovable condition. When the deadman switch is maintained but not squeezed the robot servos will release which enables jogging.

Jogging a Fanuc Robot - Deadman switch

To jog press the COORD key until the display on the top right black square reads JOINT. This tells the robot to only move one joint at a time.

Jogging a Fanuc Robot

While the Deadman switch is being pressed and one of the shift keys is also being pressed you can press a J1- or J1+ key to move the robot on J1.

It’s important to note that each time the robot is jogged or moved, the deadman and shift key must be maintained because if either the shift key or deadman switch is released then the process must be repeated.

Fanuc robot batteries

A robot’s mastering is a way for the robot to know where it is using the encoders on the servos.

The batteries keep the encoder counts stored on the robot. If the batteries on the robot run dead and the controller loses power, the robot will lose its mastering.

It is always important to change the robot batteries with the controller power on when using a Fanuc robot.

Fanuc robot batteries

Usually, the robot will warn you with a BZAL-XXX alarm. In this case, the XXX represents a three-digit number code signifying what type of battery alarm.

With that being said, we would set up a maintenance schedule to periodically change the batteries just in case.


Fanuc robots come in many shapes and sizes. Remember, Fanuc robots are usually identified by their yellow color.

By understanding what robot and controller you are working with, will help you work faster and more efficiently.

For more information on 6-axis robots, please review our article, What is a 6-axis Robot?.

If you have any questions about Fanuc Robots or about motion control in general, add them in the comments below and we will get back to you in less than 24 hours.

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