The project's aim was to develop more flexible manufacturing cells in the area of automotive engineering through the use of fast optical wireless technologies instead of relying on wired fieldbuses or common radio solutions.
The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot carrying out usual production processes such as welding, moving and testing parts in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes (in effect, a Multiple-Input Multiple-Output architecture). The system put in place can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s, with a five milliseconds latency. Li-Fi is based on low-cost LEDs and uses the license-free spectrum of visible and infrared light. Optical data transmission does depend on a line-of-sight connection, however, it cannot be jammed by radio transmitters and it is immune to electromagnetic interferences found in high-current industrial environments.
As the automobile industry seeks to build more flexible robotic tools to fulfil individual customer requirements, mobile robots ought to be networked with artificial intelligence in the cloud at low-latency.
“Li-Fi can unburden the densely occupied Wi-Fi spectrum and realize an uninterrupted mobile transmission for industrial IoT. Li-Fi works reliably when typical industrial work such as spot welding with high currents and flashes of light takes place,” emphasized Gerhard Kleinpeter, project manager at BMW.
The three-year project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 1.6 million euros. Project partners were BMW AG, evopro and Fraunhofer HHI (coordinator). OSRAM and the Munich University of Applied Sciences were associated partners and subcontractors, respectively.