5G-capable sensor technology What does 5G do for smart manufacturing?

In order to optimize industrial production, sensors collect innumerable data from machines and systems. However, the storage and analysis of data is usually decentralized and time-shifted. Fraunhofer researchers are now investigating how wireless communication via 5G can remedy this situation.

In the research project "5G-SMART: 5G for smart manufacturing", the project partners are building 5G networks in real manufacturing environments in order to test and further develop the potential of 5G for production. The consortium around the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT is testing the interaction between 5G and modern production systems such as remote-controlled industrial robotics, wireless process monitoring in production and mobile robotics. And this throughout Europe in a Ericsson factory in Sweden, in the machine tool factory of the Fraunhofer IPT in Aachen and in a Bosch semiconductor factory in Reutlingen.

The project partners are convinced that the new 5G mobile radio standard is suitable for making manufacturing processes more flexible and adaptive than before, improving the quality of components, reducing costs and thus increasing productivity. The application partners define the requirements for 5G networks so that they are tailored to the needs of the manufacturing industry together with mobile phone providers. For example, they will discuss the integration of 5G in communication standards such as time-sensitive networking (TSN) and cloud platforms, which enable flexible machine control with low latency and high reliability at the same time.

Together with the project partners, the Fraunhofer IPT develops 5G-capable, industrially usable sensors and radio modules and tests them in its own machines and plants on the basis of concrete production tasks. This should make it possible to record process data with latencies of a few milliseconds, evaluate it in real time and thus optimize process monitoring of the entire industrial process chain. This allows process deviations and machine states to be recorded in good time and control commands sent to the machine can be used to react within short reaction times to ensure that the components are manufactured in the required quality and production times. The Fraunhofer IPT uses its existing 5G test environment in Aachen, which was installed last year in the machine hall of the institute by the Swedish mobile phone provider Ericsson.

Integrated sensors, wirelessly connected to cloud-based analysis tools via 5G mobile radio connections, can help manufacturing companies of any size and industry to acquire process-relevant data and process it into information in the future. The partners will also investigate during their research project which concrete business models 5G offers for manufacturing companies, suppliers and mobile network operators.