According to many experts in the automotive industry, the use of 5G in production offers many possibilities: In order for wireless production robots and employees to be able to work together smoothly in the future, real-time wireless communication is a prerequisite. 5G is considered more reliable than other wireless technologies in that it allows deterministic response times. In addition, 5G reacts more robustly when the radio cell is heavily used and is therefore particularly suitable for connecting sensors, machines and human-operated terminals. Together with Audi, Ericsson is now presenting another example of 5G being used in automobile production: An industrial robot installs an airbag module in a steering wheel.
In practice, robot cells are already protected by safety sensors. As soon as a human hand breaks through the light curtain of the cell, the robot stops automatically. The high-bandwidth fieldbus communication required for this is made possible by the very low latency time, i.e. an end-to-end delay of approximately one millisecond. The 5G technology now makes such short latencies also possible for wireless connections. “5G connects all points in our production environment, which leads to enormous improvements in flexibility and connectivity, as well as showing what safe cooperation between humans and robots can look like,” says Arjen Kreis, Head of Body Shop Automation Technology at Audi’s Neckarsulm plant.
As part of a project with Ericsson that had been announced as early as 2018, the carmaker is testing the possibilities of 5G technology for industrial applications in the smart factory in the Audi Production Lab. “With these projects, we are learning more about how wireless networks can be optimally used in a Smart Factory,” says Dr. Henning Löser, Head of the Audi Production Lab, in which industrial application scenarios for automobile production based on 5G are being tested and further developed. The two cooperation partners are focusing on a particularly latency-critical application, such as interaction with an industrial robot.
Audi and Ericsson have been testing the use of 5G mobile and network technology for vehicle production since 2018. The partnership between the car manufacturer and the 5G equipment provider offers the opportunity to recognize the potential of wireless communication in production at an early stage. “5G offers the extremely low latency that meets the performance requirements of industrial automation,” explains Marie Hogan, Head of Mobile Broadband & IoT at Ericsson. “Advanced use cases and system-critical IoT networking combined with the benefits of greater flexibility, mobility and efficiency for production automation are now possible. The ‘cutting of the cables’ is the real turning point in the Industry 4.0 era”.