How to Maximize the Potential of a 5G Network in Manufacturing

There is a huge potential for the use of 5G networks which may be used in the technology areas such as automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, cloud, mobile broadband, edge, quantum computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable the building of smart factories.

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Some of the 5G use cases can be mobile robots in production, autonomous vehicles in the transportation and logistics sectors, and augmented reality applications for service & maintenance technicians.

To enhance the efficiency of a manufacturing process, critical parameters such as vibration, temperature, throughput, and other device-specific properties must be measured by equipment constantly. 5G improves operational efficiency and data insights on the production floor and across the supply chain. Manufacturers benefit from a variety of factors, including high-precision assembly lines whereby all machines and robots are completely in sync in real-time. Widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), and even humans operating machines by touch.

Increased productivity, digital transformation through wireless technology, and the usage of private networks are the driving factor for 5G NR in IIoT networks. The IIoT network will be scalable in terms of connectivity and device count, and it will be built to deliver optimal performance for all industrial applications by leveraging key LTE and 5G NR features such as Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), Massive Machine-type Communication (mMTC), 5G positioning, time-sensitive communications (TSC), and to a lesser extent Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB).

Below are some potential features of 5G network in the manufacturing industry which may be exploited:

  • URRLC, mMTC and eMBB are different slice types that are used to address the different needs of different types of machines and devices, the interface between the device and the antennas (the air interface) will have several different specialised/ tailored behaviours.
  • mMTC allows vast numbers of battery-operated low-power devices to be connected, it handles a density of one million devices per square kilometre. From an industrial production perspective, this type of service will enable low-power devices (that may need to last in the field or factory for years on a single battery charge) such as Wireless sensor networks and other intelligent devices used for Location and asset tracking.
  • URLLC allows latency below 1ms on the radio interface as well as availability exceeding 99.999%, making it ideal for industrial use where uptime is always crucial, it is supported by 5G NR (New Radio). In industrial production, this type of service will enable Motion control, Mobile robots, Human remote control, and Mobile control panels with safety functions.
  • eMBB is primarily targeting residential internet access with speed and latency on par with fibre optical networks. in industrial production, this type of service is suitable for AGVs, Augmented reality, Remote access, and Inbound and outbound logistics. It ensures fast access to data from devices such as smartphones, laptops or vehicles for applications such as streaming video.
  • The network infrastructure that supports 5G will employ sharing techniques (virtualisation and cloud), which allow for multiple slice types to co-exist without having too many multiples of resources.
  • Predictive maintenance is critical to the success of a manufacturing company. The ability to monitor equipment performance in real-time through 5G helps eliminate unexpected downtime and disruptions on production lines.
  • Sensors can send performance data to an artificial intelligence interface, which can monitor and respond to signals such as temperature, vibrations, and audio output.

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