Worcester Bosch, the UK's first 5G factory with a private network and mobile edge computing, installed a network of collision sensors on robots throughout the factory to improve worker safety.
In partnership with West Midlands 5G, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has too launched a 5G private network. The network is similarly used to facilitate automated logistics, robotics and vision inspection, providing production lines with varied inspection requirements; for example, autonomous mobile robots are being used to rapidly transport components across the factory to an inspection cell where products are checked against design specifications.
The 5G CAL project is working with the Nissan plant in Sunderland (the largest car plant in the UK) to test the ability of 5G to remotely control an autonomous 40-tonne truck. Within the project, 5G is being used to provide high bandwidth, low latency and highly reliable bi-directional communications with the vehicle. Specifically, the team is demonstrating the ability of 5G to enable the safe and secure remote operation of the CAV. This is a brilliant demonstration of the capabilities of 5G and Connected Automated Logistics throughout a localised supply chain.
As part of the 5G-SMART project, the software controlling autonomous robots is moved to an edge cloud platform that connects to robots via 5G. The project is testing the ability of robots to smartly navigate a space, including collision avoidance.
Atlas Copco Airpower is also using 5G to wirelessly control AGVs via cameras and environmental monitoring sensors across the factory. The end result is more agile robots, something which has traditionally been a problem for AGVs.
5G and MEC is also being used at the Huaheng factory in China, to power AGVs that are being implemented for asset tracking and smart warehousing services. The solution can flexibly meet the requirements of multiple AGVs in operation at the same time for multi-vehicle cooperative operation. Elsewhere in China, the Xinfengming Group factory is using 5G for the deployment of intelligent guided vehicles to move large volumes of fibre cakes on the factory floor with smart dispatch control. Under the 5G network, these vehicles can operate with greater stability and improved transport efficiency, facilitating safer production. Compared to traditional Wi-Fi solutions, the use of 5G greatly reduced disconnection rates from the vehicles and reduced control latency to less than 10ms.
Using AMRs, Nokia, DOCOMO and OMRON are trialling the concept of a layout-free production line. As product cycles become shorter due to fast-changing consumer demands, manufacturing sites are under increasing pressure to rearrange production lines at short notice. By taking advantage of 5G's high speed, large capacity, low latency and ability to connect multiple devices, the manufacturers will see AMRs automatically conveying components to the exact spot where they are required based on communication with production line equipment.
Meanwhile, the European INGENIOUS project is exploring how 5G can enable multi-tasking autonomous robots in production lines, requiring latencies of just a few milliseconds. At the LG Factory in South Korea, the Mobile Manipulator Specification controls the movement of autonomous mobile robots and offers them the optimal route to carry out logistics over a 5G network. When any obstacles are found, the route is changed automatically; this allows workers to monitor the conditions of the robots, such as their battery status and locations in and outside the factory in real-time.
In China, 5G has been deployed in over 200 factories with measurable benefits in terms of performance and cost. Specifically, at Midea, 5G replaced traditional WiFi for its automated guided vehicles for an 8% improvement in logistics efficiency and a 10% reduction in operation and maintenance cost due to increased connection stability.