This year’s Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair, was particularly influenced by one theme – 5G network expansion. The german 5G frequencies will be auctioned off in spring 2019 and it will be a long time before the end user can benefit from the new network standard. However, the industry is already assuming that the ultra-fast network will revolutionise the use of machines.
Industry 4.0 is still the buzzword when it comes to the production facilities of the future. In realizing the vision of automated, fully networked production, 5G network expansion plays a decisive role, if not the decisive one. The network standard will provide the basic prerequisite for machines to communicate reliably, with a high volume of data and in real time. Only in this state can production plants react flexibly to increasingly complex requirements.
5G connects machines quickly and efficiently
Automation and the possibility of controlling machines remotely are part of this. If, for example, cameras on an assembly line detect a foreign object, the responsible robot arm must come to a standstill immediately. An important factor here is latency, i.e. the delay between sending and receiving a signal. So that decisive control commands for and between the individual machines arrive on time, the latency must be as low as possible – in the 5G network, this latency should be less than one millisecond.
Another advantage of the future network is its performance. A WLAN network is not designed to connect a large number of components. Via 5G, thousands of communicating machines can easily be linked together – wirelessly. As a result, production systems in tomorrow’s factories can be moved much more flexibly and reconfigured without new installations. Completely new production lines can thus be set up within a very short time – always completely individually according to the order situation.
Intelligent machines and high cost efficiency
As complex and futuristic as the concept of the 5G-based Smart Factory sounds at first, it will ultimately pay off financially. The powerful 5G network makes it possible to equip the machine with a large number of sensors and transmit their data quickly and without loss. This also makes machines more intelligent – production can be monitored and faults can be detected and rectified at an early stage, even before production downtimes occur. Safety also plays a role: the better machines are perceived by the people who operate them, the fewer accidents will occur.
The advantages of the new mobile radio standard can be exemplified by milling machines: Instead of being able to assess the quality of a milling operation afterwards on the basis of the finished product as before, sensors that communicate with each other could be used during production. Mounted directly on the components, these enabled the milling process to be monitored live. If the deviations exceeded the normal level, the production process could be readjusted directly and material scrap could be significantly reduced.
It is now up to politicians and industry to jointly pave the way for 5G – the technology is likely to be a decisive factor for Germany as an industrial location. Currently, the technology is expected to be ready for the market by 2020, and the German government is planning to spread the network standard throughout the country by 2025.