"What if we could always get in touch with our UR robots, anywhere, anytime -- from any device?" That was the question Airgate, a Danish developer of customized IoT solutions, often encountered when talking to distributors and end users of UR robots.
Airgate had developed a GSM modem solution, ARCS basic, that provides a simple remote monitoring of the UR robots by sending text messages to the robot operator when the robot exceeded defined limits such as running out of material or stopping work unexpectedly.
But one thing is getting an alert, another is actually being able to access the UR robot's own PolyScope interface remotely to manage; troubleshoot, operate, diagnose and avoid critical downtime.
"We discovered a need in the market to take our products to the next level and provide a solution that assists the robot operators on the floor from a central support function," says Airgate's CEO, Søren Lund, explaining that the remote support would typically be from an in-house supervisor, a distributor, or even UR's own tech support.
The additional solution, ARCS rm -- also certified by UR and available through the Universal Robots+ showroom -- is software that provides an encrypted VNC connection between the robot and any internet-connected device that the robot owner has granted access to. Once connection is established, the PolyScope GUI on the robot's touch screen will stream to the connected device screen.
"Instead of the robot supporter having to travel on-site, perhaps spending a whole day on this, it's now possible to diagnose and remotely operate immediately, minimizing costly downtime both for the end user and the support provider. Our product could easily pay itself back in a single day," says the Airgate CEO.
The Knotts Company, Inc., a UR distributor located in New Jersey, USA, has now started including the remote access feature provided by ARCS basic and ARCS rm in all UR robot quotes to end users.
"We see this feature as a definite must in order to provide timely support to our customers," says Mark Guida, Technical Support Manager with Knotts Company. "We really like the fact that the Airgate solution is able to access cellular networks which keeps it separate from our customers' IT infrastructure. Remote access to other control systems that we represent has often been a challenge due to issues when connecting through our customer's VPN or internal firewalls."
Airgate's secure connection is delivered through a Secomea platform which is security certified by ProtectEM. Remote management access can be enabled and disabled from the robot end with options for an additional VNC password and a timer that automatically shuts off the remote access. The remote access can also be connected to a warning lamp that signals when the robot is accessed through the VNC connection.
"Now we can quickly access key indicators such as the robot's latest log files. It really gives us a window into what is going on with the robot in real time. As we enter Industry 4.0 with increased demands for connectivity and uptime, solutions like Airgate's become imperative," says Guida.
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