A 5G network that will bring wireless communication and high-speed networks to the manufacturing industry has been deployed by the Confirm Centre in the University of Limerick.
The “future wireless innovation test-bed” is designed to explore ideas and technologies for improving manufacturing environments to create “smarter factories” by utilising the latest wireless technologies such as 5G, 6G and Wifi6.
Planning and executing the technology was a collaborative effort between Confirm and the Netmore Group. It was led by Dr Eoin O'Connell.
The technology was designed by firstly looking at the challenges manufacturing companies face, and how they can be alleviated by technologies such as 5G.
This was achieved by specifically focussing on test use cases for issues like industrial Internet of Things, robotics and the deployment of “mixed reality” in manufacturing.
The Internet of Things is a term to describe the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.
“Mixed reality” is the term for providing manufacturers with the ability to monitor the production process in the context of the physical assembly and determine whether production is ahead, on, or behind schedule.
Early tests included a practical study undertaken in December where a mobile robot was controlled on a 5G network at the Confirm Centre. “We believe this is the first reported case of such 5G wireless robotic control in Ireland,” the group said.
“The initial results demonstrate that the integration of 5G as a wireless signalling system within a manufacturing environment is both very promising from an accuracy standpoint and also now a more viable option.”
The group said the technology promises fast connectivity, more bandwidth and low latency with support for tens of thousands of devices in a small location, all of which are “attractive prospects to manufacturing facilities”.
The new technology will also offer manufacturers “the chance to build smarter factories and truly take advantage of technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality for troubleshooting, and the larger deployment of Internet of Things devices”.
“Manufacturers will benefit from unprecedented speed and coverage, which will provide an avenue for never-before-imagined capabilities across the manufacturing space,” the group continued.
“Adding this new future wireless test-bed offering into the mix of options for the sector can enable manufacturers to enhance the scale and volume of data-collection, improve process flexibility by eliminating wires and improve the ability to process data in near real-time.”