What 5G really brings to mechanical engineering

What 5G actually brings in production and what advantages the technology has over WLAN was discussed at Automatica sprint.


A panel discussion at the Automatica sprint dealt with the topic ‘5G, WLAN and more: Wireless communication for the smart factory. Production editor-in-chief Claus Wilk moderated the talk with participants from Nokia, SEW Eurodrive and the VDMA.
It is clear that the smart factory Needs flexibility. Mobile robots drive autonomously and optimize the material flow, the highly adaptable ‘matrix production’ replaces rigid production lines. This also makes the automation of batch size 1 economical. For this, machines and devices must also be networked and they communicate directly with one another.
However, this requires wireless communication technology such as 5G. The speakers clarified what campus networks can do, what has already been technically solved and where there are still challenges. A detailed look was given above all to the first steps in the introduction as well as to existing practical applications.

“Users can set a campus network to suit their own needs. This makes them independent of public 5G networks, where you only ever get an intersection of all requirements,” 

says Tom Richter, Global Head of Discrete and Process Manufacturing Verticals at Nokia.
Moderator Claus Wilk asked whether 5G is actually the driver of networked production and thus the basis for Industry 4.0, as we all imagine and what exactly is hidden behind the campus networks.
To said Tom Richter, Global Head of Discrete and Process Manufacturing verticals at Nokia. “It’s a 5G network for a campus, which will open up completely new possibilities because everyone 5G can bring to its factory area is important that the Users can adjust the network to their own needs. This makes them independent of public 5G networks, where only an intersection of all requirements is made available. “
5G also offers the possibility of connecting machines and people wirelessly, with a performance that is only known from wire networks today.

Self-built 5G network, optimized for industry

According to Eike Lyczkowski, Funk & Navigation specialist group, SEW Eurodrive relies on a private, self-constructed 5G network, “which we operate ourselves. This is a solution that has been optimized for industry and is significantly simplified compared to what network operators do nowadays. “
Lyczkowski is very satisfied with the first performance test and justifies this approach: “We all know the trends towards Industry 4.0, Smart Factory and Matrix production. What all these things have in common is that we get more flexibility and mobility in the factory. And mobility always means wireless connectivity. Today’s WLAN reaches its performance limits very quickly and does not support mobility as well. “

Machine builder as exporter asks for certifications

When switching from WLAN to 5G, two cases take effect, as Lyczkowski described: “On the one hand, the insufficient bandwidth can be supplemented by WLAN and, on the other hand, new applications such as remote processing or edge computing are possible. If you ask people from production or logistics, what They wish they did not have access to additional data. We expect that 5G will make a lot of things easier. “
But what are the machine-builders concerns about 5G? Miriam Solera from the Working Group Wireless Communications for Machines (VDMA WCM) explained: “Of course, the machine-builders want to know which technology is suitable for industry, which costs are incurred and which added value there is exactly.” There are also questions about the certifications. “Because the machine builder as an exporter wants to know whether his machines can also be used worldwide, which frequency bands are needed and which certification processes are in place. That is why we consider a technology-neutral approach to be very important,” emphasized Solera

“What all of these things have in common is that we get more flexibility and mobility in the factory. And mobility always means wireless connectivity. Today’s WLAN reaches its performance limit very quickly and its mobility is not that good,” 

says Eike Lyczkowski, expert group Radio & navigation at SEW Eurodrive.

What is already possible today with 5G

But what is already possible with 5G today and at what entry-level costs? In addition, Richter explained that the user can start with the ‘5G stand-alone mode’, which is the target architecture for industrial applications. “Then we have the very comfortable situation in Germany that we even have a private spectrum for the campus at very affordable prices, which you can apply to the Federal Network Agency so that you can operate your own network on your own frequency. “With the end devices, the network could be put into operation.
“We assume that we are working in a heterogeneous environment. The company, therefore, needs an integration partner, possibly a transformation partner, for the implementation. The question of who operates the network and whether there is perhaps a partner for the operation must also be answered of the network. It’s complex, but any company can start with it today, “said Richter, encouraging everyone.
Lyczkowski added that it is imperative that the company’s IT department be involved in the process.

“Of course, the machine builders want to know which technology is suitable for industry, what costs are incurred and what added value there is,” 

says Miriam Solera from the Working Group Wireless Communications for Machines (VDMA WCM).

How the machine manufacturer can benefit from 5G

But how can machine builders benefit from 5G in practice? “He can network his corresponding assets on his campus, for example for the topic of ‘economic operation of the campus’ under the aspect of energy consumption. This way, the corresponding sensor data can be merged and displayed in a digital twin on his campus,” explained Richter.
There are many use cases on the shop floor when communicating from machine to machine or from machine to worker. 5G could help. “5G is also helpful when using AR and VR to support the operation of machines and to display the operating data in real-time in order to make machine control more effective or to support repairs,” says Richter with certainty.
Then, according to Richter, there is a large area of ​​the connected worker – i.e. communication between workers – because 5G also supports data, voice and video communication.
judge Further: “Finally, there is the large area of ​​the Industrial IoT, where it is a matter of networking the many more or less intelligent assets with one another. Driverless transport systems are already in frequent use today – especially when using an entire fleet with the corresponding control system. This is where conventional systems such as WLAN reach their limits. “

5G is also advantageous when retrofitting

Lyczkowski is also pleased about the use of tablets to be able to transmit videos in real-time

for the first time and to enable mobile HMIs. 5G also plays retrofitting issues in the brownfield into the cards. “Always there where I can’t or don’t want to pull a cable and still need connectivity – where I want to introduce a pick by light, for example. Where I don’t want to pull a cable and with everything that moves, 5G offers great advantages over WiFi. “
In addition to the shop floor, Solera also referred to the use of 5G in agricultural technology, mining and construction. “There, too, the machines are used – for example in the cooperation between machines in agricultural engineering and sensors in machines for collecting data and for the safety of people on the construction site.”

Standardize 5G technologies and roll them out globally

But Solera again reminded me of the different norms around the world, but of the dependence of mechanical engineering on export. “Mechanical engineering has to adapt to regulations,” she said.
Richter has a solution for this: “We bring something with us from the telecommunications industry that has been in place for over 20 years. That means that we standardize technologies, lay down the standards and then roll them out globally.”
That opens up the possibility of scaling accordingly. “That is a different way of thinking than what automation technicians still think today. With this standardization We also have the option of using the same standard around the globe with 5G, “said Richter confidently.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This is default text for notification bar