Design

What are the 5G benefits for industrial applications?

Its low latency attributes are the main reason for this, as they provide the network responsiveness required to support real-time automation and control applications. This article will discuss 5G in Industrial Automation (IA) contexts and examine some emerging applications. Finally, we will ask the question: Will the reality match the hype?

German government created the concept of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. The idea was to increase GDP growth by exporting German-made machinery and equipment into a more competitive industrial market. The market is more urbanized, globalized, individualized, and prone to demographic change.

These megatrends were amplified by the ongoing pandemic, which has caused upheaval. This highlights the importance of operational agility and causes manufacturers to increase their reliance on and investment in digital technology.

The smart factory is at the heart of Industry 4.0. It uses flexible, modular and versatile production techniques to increase efficiency while maintaining quality and output (figure 1). Smart factories replace traditional, static, sequential production processes with flexible processes. It integrates human expertise with new technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and the industrial IoT (IIoT), 5G wireless technology, and 3D printing.

Figure 1 – Industry 4.0 is built on the smart factory (Source: Deloitte).

Many factories are limited by wired networks that use communication protocols like Profinet, Industrial Ethernet, and CANbus to connect various sensors, actuators and controllers in automated production systems. These rigidly wired systems can lead to inflexible control architectures that make it difficult for factories to modify production facilities. This can result in costly and time-consuming plant reconfigurations. Industry 4.0 requires powerful, efficient wireless communications that can meet the requirements of smart factories. Industry 4.0 requires 5G!

The manufacturing environment is diverse and heterogeneous. It includes a wide range of automation uses, which can be divided into five categories.

  • Automating factories
  • Process automation
  • HMIs and production IT are human-machine interfaces.
  • Logistics and warehousing
  • Predictive maintenance and monitoring

These use cases often require immediate responsiveness and low latency than previous generations of wireless networks could not provide. Factory floors are a challenging operating environment with high electrical noise and interference levels that can challenge many wireless communication technologies. Figure 2 shows how 5G’s improved networking performance (figure 2) can address some of these issues and increase system flexibility and efficiency.

Figure 2. 5G’s network capabilities support various industrial uses (Source: 5GACIA).

Monitoring is an important function in the automated factory. 5G’s Massive Machine-Type Communications capability (MTC) is ideal for large-scale wireless sensor network (WSN) requirements. With high-powered connected devices and long battery life (and therefore low power communications) is a crucial feature that prevents time-consuming maintenance.

Industrial robotics and motion control requires precision, real-time responsiveness and high-speed connectivity. This is driving the shift towards Time-Sensitive Networking for (wired), Industrial Ethernet solutions. Cloud Robotics is now possible thanks to 5G’s ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLCC), which provides an alternative wireless solution for these applications.

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence (VR/AR/AI) are all related technologies increasingly used in the factory environment, particularly in product prototyping, training, maintenance, and machine learning. 5G’s high throughput allows for true cloud-edge processing. Energy-intensive computations can now be performed in the cloud with less complicated, cheaper devices connected to the edge – the factory floor.

Implementing 5G can be challenging. 5G projects need to be integrated seamlessly into existing communication infrastructure to protect prior investments. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have never prioritized indoor coverage. This is compounded by the propagation characteristics of 5G frequencies, especially in factories with a challenging radio frequency (RF) environment.

Open-RAN technology developments reduce the cost of owning 5G Radio Access Networks (5GRAN), making Non-Public Network (NPN) deployments a feasible option for businesses – either directly or through a growing number of specialist systems integrators. Regulators recognize the importance of NPNs around the globe. They have made a dedicated spectrum that is cost-effective available to those who choose this option.

An NPN can be tailored to the factory’s specific operational requirements. It can also combine and match functionality with the 5G network from their MNO. The NPN can be isolated from the public networks but can also share the RAN with them. It can share the Control Plane functionality, and the MNO can entirely host the RAN in certain cases.

The industrial sector has seen an increase in automation, which has created a demand for 5G networks. 5G allows manufacturers to manage their production schedules and meet the needs of customization and speed-to-market. This allows them to deploy wireless networks without sacrificing throughput or responsiveness.

Its low latency attributes are the main reason for this, as they provide the network responsiveness required to support real-time automation and control applications. This article will discuss 5G in Industrial Automation (IA) contexts and examine some emerging applications. Finally, we will ask the question: Will the reality match the hype?

German government created the concept of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. The idea was to increase GDP growth by exporting German-made machinery and equipment into a more competitive industrial market. The market is more urbanized, globalized, individualized, and prone to demographic change.

These megatrends were amplified by the ongoing pandemic, which has caused upheaval. This highlights the importance of operational agility and causes manufacturers to increase their reliance on and investment in digital technology.

The smart factory is at the heart of Industry 4.0. It uses flexible, modular and versatile production techniques to increase efficiency while maintaining quality and output (figure 1). Smart factories replace traditional, static, sequential production processes with flexible processes. It integrates human expertise with new technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and the industrial IoT (IIoT), 5G wireless technology, and 3D printing.

Figure 1 – Industry 4.0 is built on the smart factory (Source: Deloitte).

Many factories are limited by wired networks that use communication protocols like Profinet, Industrial Ethernet, and CANbus to connect various sensors, actuators and controllers in automated production systems. These rigidly wired systems can lead to inflexible control architectures that make it difficult for factories to modify production facilities. This can result in costly and time-consuming plant reconfigurations. Industry 4.0 requires powerful, efficient wireless communications that can meet the requirements of smart factories. Industry 4.0 requires 5G!

The manufacturing environment is diverse and heterogeneous. It includes a wide range of automation uses, which can be divided into five categories.

  • Automating factories
  • Process automation
  • HMIs and production IT are human-machine interfaces.
  • Logistics and warehousing
  • Predictive maintenance and monitoring

These use cases often require immediate responsiveness and low latency than previous generations of wireless networks could not provide. Factory floors are a challenging operating environment with high electrical noise and interference levels that can challenge many wireless communication technologies. Figure 2 shows how 5G’s improved networking performance (figure 2) can address some of these issues and increase system flexibility and efficiency.

Figure 2. 5G’s network capabilities support various industrial uses (Source: 5GACIA).

Monitoring is an important function in the automated factory. 5G’s Massive Machine-Type Communications capability (MTC) is ideal for large-scale wireless sensor network (WSN) requirements. With high-powered connected devices and long battery life (and therefore low power communications) is a crucial feature that prevents time-consuming maintenance.

Industrial robotics and motion control requires precision, real-time responsiveness and high-speed connectivity. This is driving the shift towards Time-Sensitive Networking for (wired), Industrial Ethernet solutions. Cloud Robotics is now possible thanks to 5G’s ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLCC), which provides an alternative wireless solution for these applications.

Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence (VR/AR/AI) are all related technologies increasingly used in the factory environment, particularly in product prototyping, training, maintenance, and machine learning. 5G’s high throughput allows for true cloud-edge processing. Energy-intensive computations can now be performed in the cloud with less complicated, cheaper devices connected to the edge – the factory floor.

Implementing 5G can be challenging. 5G projects need to be integrated seamlessly into existing communication infrastructure to protect prior investments. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have never prioritized indoor coverage. This is compounded by the propagation characteristics of 5G frequencies, especially in factories with a challenging radio frequency (RF) environment.

Open-RAN technology developments reduce the cost of owning 5G Radio Access Networks (5GRAN), making Non-Public Network (NPN) deployments a feasible option for businesses – either directly or through a growing number of specialist systems integrators. Regulators recognize the importance of NPNs around the globe. They have made a dedicated spectrum that is cost-effective available to those who choose this option.

An NPN can be tailored to the factory’s specific operational requirements. It can also combine and match functionality with the 5G network from their MNO. The NPN can be isolated from the public networks but can also share the RAN with them. It can share the Control Plane functionality, and the MNO can entirely host the RAN in certain cases.

The industrial sector has seen an increase in automation, which has created a demand for 5G networks. 5G allows manufacturers to manage their production schedules and meet the needs of customization and speed-to-market. This allows them to deploy wireless networks without sacrificing throughput or responsiveness.

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