5G Embraces Flexibility

July 14, 2020
With the standard comes the ability for production facilities to host private networks, paving the way for a more connected plant.

Gunther May, head of Technology and Innovation for the Automation & Electrification Solutions branch of Bosch Rexroth, gave a presentation on what 5G is and how manufacturers can leverage the network technology during the company’s Explore the Factory of the Future virtual event.

On the way to more transparency, modularity and open standards, manufacturers should consider how they connect their plants. The manufacturing process can be changed very quickly. May explained that a more flexible production setup is no longer a vision for the future—it’s a vision for now. And one way manufacturers can get to more configurable factories is through 5G.

Wireless connections are present in production now, though not yet standard. Wi-Fi, LTE, Bluetooth, LoRa and UWB—while very commonly used—are not as reliable as they should be because they are on shared frequency bands. These connections are not as secure.

“You typically don’t have any security concepts spanning over all of the systems,” May said. “And functional safety is something that is really difficult to achieve because functional safety requires a really reliable channel.”

He explained the current situation makes it difficult for facilities to move to wireless connections. But with 5G, many of those issues don’t exist.

“5G was designed having professional systems in mind,” said May. Unlike 4G, which was mostly designed for public networks, 5G allows for private networks that can be used in production plants.

May pointed out there is two types of 5G manufacturers should be aware of: 5G NSA and 5G SA. 5G NSA (non-standalone) requires a 4G system for its signaling, which is not able to host a private network. 5G SA (standalone) is the connection that will allow for private networks.

HMI tablets, AR/VR, asset tracking and wireless sensors can all reap the benefits that come along with 5G private network connectivity.

“We at Rexroth see 5G as an enabler for these more flexible factories of the future,” May concluded.

About the Author

Marie McBurnett | Senior Editor, Machine Design

Marie McBurnett is senior editor for Machine Design, covering robotics, 3D printing and design software.

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