Smart Factory wireless control
VR robot control, an application for 5G campus networks Fraunhofer FOKUS

With 5G campus networks on the way to the wireless factory site

News from Nov. 08, 2019

At the end of October, the Bundesnetzagentur published the fees for frequencies in the range from 3.7 GHz to 3.8 GHz for local applications, thus laying the foundation for campus networks, i.e. a company's own network on factory premises. Fraunhofer FOKUS discussed the technical implementation of such private networks with partners from industry and science at the Industrial IoT (IIoT) Forum and the FOKUS FUSECO Forum (FFF) from November 6-8, 2019, and presented various 5G demonstrations for the factory of the future. 

Mostly wired industrial networks have been used in the last 50 years to meet high requirements regarding security, reliability and real-time behavior. This has changed in recent years: The industry wants to benefit from the possibilities of worldwide digital networking in order to save costs or open up new business models. Wireless communication also offers greater flexibility within the factory premises. Technically, this is being driven by the beginning convergence of classic operating technologies with modern ICT approaches. At the network level, the IEEE Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) standards and the 5G Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (uRLLC) specifications in Release 16 of the 3GPP standardization organization play a key role. At the same time, the German government supports the rapid, secure and cost-effective construction of 5G networks on factory premises in line with individual requirements by allocating local frequencies.

At the IIoT Forum and FFF, Fraunhofer FOKUS and its partners demonstrated the technical possibilities of local 5G campus and TSN networks using various industrial applications as examples. In many demonstrations the Open5GCore from Fraunhofer FOKUS is used as a software-based core network. The control programs for communication, as well as authentication and the connection of devices and services, run in the core network. The software-based implementation allows network functions to be dynamically combined into one individual, virtual campus network ─ depending on the required latency time, security level and number of devices to be networked. At the FOKUS FUSECO Forum, the 5th version of the software was presented, which has been licensed for two years by various renowned industry players in order to build local 5G testbeds.

Demonstration: Quality assurance in production

Two industrial cameras take 15 pictures per second of a screw. The video data is transmitted with a bandwidth of 16 bits to a computer, which then generates a 3D object of the screw in almost real time. The digital twin can be used for automated quality inspection or, in the event of irregularities, be forwarded to an inspector at another location for inspection and quality documentation. Visitors can slip into the role of the inspector and view the 3D model from all sides. The local 5G network ensures fast transmission of the high data volume.

Demonstration: Local network for the factory hall 4.0 (in cooperation with NetApp)

The demonstration shows a production line of a factory running on a local 5G campus network. The factory is represented in the demonstration by a Fischertechnik model, on which the industry 4.0 value chain can be reconstructed. A digital twin is created to represent the complete process, document it and thus ensure higher quality standards. Reconfigurations of individual machines are possible thanks to the flexible IT network connection. A 5G core installation runs on a Hyper Converged Infrastructure from NetApp meeting performance, confidentiality, and reliability requirements.

Demonstration: Edge-based 5G core networks for robot control in factories (in cooperation with the German Edge Cloud/ GEC)

Using Virtual Reality (VR) glasses and two VR controllers, visitors can control a two-armed industrial robot connected to an Edge-based 5G core network. The task is to plug an enlarged replica of the Rittal conductor connection terminal onto a rail and insert a cable into the terminal and disconnect it again. The mobile radio connection is converted via a 60 Ghz frequency with Smallcells, a small radio cell consisting of a base station with a mobile radio antenna. This ensures a smooth VR environment and virtually delay-free robot remote control. In combination with Edge Computing, with which data can be processed directly on the production site in microcomputing centers, secure, real-time communication is possible.