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5G has been making its way into our daily lives by enhancing mobile broadband speed and reducing latency. 5G is also making its way into industry and the newly launched 5GEM-UK (5G-Enhanced Manufacture – UK) project will aim to demonstrate the value that 5G will bring to industry by creating testbeds at two sites – Ford Motor Company’s site in Dunton and TWI’s facility in Cambridge. These testbeds will showcase how 5G technology can facilitate real-time monitoring of manufacturing machines and processes, enable real-time control of the machines and processes, and improve data collection, all leading to an overall enhanced capability of monitoring the shop floor.
Two specific machines have been chosen for the testbeds – a laser welding machine and a vacuum furnace machine. Both of these represent a wide category of machines that are common in manufacturing facilities. The laser welding machine represents a generic built-to-order machine that uses standard components. The developed solution for 5G adoption in this specific machine could be applicable in similar machines. The vacuum furnace machine, on the other hand, represents a non-built-to-order machine and will illustrate the challenges of implementing 5G in legacy machines.
As Chris White (Ford Motor Company), 5GEM-UK Project Lead, explains: “Connecting today’s shop floor requires significant time and investment. The technology used is inflexible and bespoke. It can often be viewed as the limiting factor in reconfiguring and deploying reliable manufacturing systems. 5G presents the opportunity to transform the speed of launch and flexibility of present manufacturing facilities, moving us towards tomorrow’s factories with mobile assets, remote computing, remote expert support and artificial intelligence.”
The 5GEM-UK consortium includes Ford Motor Company as the lead partner, Vodafone, TWI, Vacuum Furnace Engineering, ATS, TM Forum, HSSMI and Lancaster University. The consortium will work on various challenges associated with the implementation of 5G – cyber security, scale up, standards, machine learning and development of 5G technology for the industrial environment.
HSSMI will continue to develop services and solutions for the manufacturing industry in the area of digital manufacturing tools. 5GEM-UK will enable HSSMI to expand their service portfolio by developing real-time data driven productivity enhancing digital tools and applications which they will be able to offer to manufacturers with 5G connectivity enabled.
“HSSMI are looking forward to working on the 5GEM-UK project to explore how 5G will enable new cutting-edge digital tools and technology to be developed and deployed, creating increased value and a lasting impact within the manufacturing industry. HSSMI will explore how AR, VR and Virtual commissioning could be enhanced by giving the technologies access to real time data made available through 5G networks”, says Tosin Famusudo, Solution Lead for Digital Manufacturing Tools at HSSMI.
As part of the project, the 5GEM-UK consortium will also undertake a standardisation process to allow for 5G enabled facilities. The consortium will develop standards for machine, line and facility level which will then support other industries, interested organisations and users in the adoption of 5G.
5GEM-UK is funded by the UK Government as part of its industrial 5G competition. Winners were announced last week and DCMS Secretary General, referring to 5GEM-UK, said: “5G is about more than consumers getting faster and more reliable speeds. We’re determined to harness this revolutionary technology to boost the productivity and growth of UK industries. We want Britain to be a world leader in 5G and since 2017 the government has invested millions in groundbreaking testbeds and trials across the country to achieve this. I’m pleased to welcome 5GEM-UK to our ambitious programme and I look forward to seeing it take early advantage of 5G’s potential to improve the manufacture of electric vehicles.”