Bosch has started testing a 5G network at its latest wafer fab in Reutlingen, Germany as part of its drive for Industry 4.0 automation. The machines in the 300mm fab, set to open next year, will generate a gigabit of data every second, so the network is a key part of the development.
“At Bosch we started researching and developing 5G early on, and we are convinced that this new mobile communications standard will give Industry 4.0 a boost,” said Dr. Michael Bolle, CTO of Bosch.
The company is now starting compatibility tests and channel measurements for setting up a 5G network as part of the 5G-SMART research project. As well as the Dresden fab, the project will be testing 5G networks for industrial automation at Ericsson in Kista and Fraunhofer IPT’s 5G Industry Campus Europe in Aachen.
“Fast, reliable, and secure data transmission is the basis for Industry 4.0. Combining it with 5G will allow us to further ramp up and improve factory production,” said Bolle. “In Dresden, we are building Bosch’s first 5G-capable semiconductor plant worldwide. The facility will be ready for 5G from day one.”
At its wafer fab in Reutlingen, Bosch is currently launching compatibility tests in partnership with Ericsson that are designed to explore the extent to which the new network technology impacts manufacturing.
“Semiconductor production is extremely complex and sensitive. These microscopic wafers undergo more than 1,000 tests before ending up in a wide array of products, ranging from airbags to smartphones to e-bikes. In a factory environment, electromagnetic waves can be a source of interference, so we’re testing the impact 5G has on production,” said Andreas Müller, who works for Bosch as a researcher and is the chairman of the international 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA).
Channel measurements are also key to ensuring optimum network coverage as well as where and how densely transmitting antennas need to be placed throughout the plant, for example. During this process, engineers will observe how machines and systems can work with the network and investigate how much better and more efficient this connection is compared to WiFi6 or the 6GHz WiFi6E technology or cabling. The technology can also be applied to autonomous transport systems that can be guided via a local cloud, remote access to machinery, and communication between industrial systems.
The project partners are also testing the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in the fab, evaluating how the network technology behaves in a real-life manufacturing environment.
Production at the billion-euro plant is scheduled to start by the end of 2021, about the same time that the two-year 5G-SMART project finishes.
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