Bosch and Ericsson hone 5G for Industry 4.0, rollout private 5G in Germany
Bosch has started to build a private industrial 5G network at its semiconductor factory in Reutlingen, in Baden-Württemberg in Germany, to test for Industry 4.0 compatibility and network optimisation, along with industrial partners including ABB, Ericsson, Orange, and T-Systems.
The Reutlingen industrial 5G network will use the 3.7-3.8 GHz band, liberated by German telecoms regulator BNetzA for industrial usage. It forms part of the 3GPP’s three-year ‘5G-SMART’ smart manufacturing trials, which started in the middle of 2019, to help with development work for Releases 17 and 18 of the 5G NR standard.
An Ericsson factory in Kista in Sweden, and a Fraunhofer IPT shopfloor in Aachen in Germany are the other manufacturing sites being used for the 5G-SMART initiative. The three sites will be used in complementary research into 5G-enabled digital twins, industrial robotics, and machine vision based remote operations.
Bosch is launching compatibility tests with Ericsson at the Reutlingen wafer fab to explore the extent to which 5G impacts manufacturing. Channel measurements are also on the agenda, to establish guidance about how to ensure optimum network coverage, and on the location and density of antennas in a plant.
Bosch stated: “Engineers will observe how machines and systems can work with 5G and investigate how much better and more efficient this connection is compared to Wi-Fi or cabling. Fields of application include autonomous transport systems that can be guided via a local cloud, remote access to machinery, and communication between industrial systems.”
Bosch will use the findings to establish a 5G network-proper at the Reutlingen plant by late 2020. They will also inform network planning at the company’s €1 billion new wafer fab in Dresden, set to be its first 5G-capable semiconductor plant, scheduled to open in late 2021. “The facility will be ready for 5G from day one,” the company said. The €1 billion fee for the Dresden site represents the largest single investment in the company’s history.
Bosch said: “Microelectronics is paving the way for Industry 4.0 on various levels. For one, Industry 4.0 is inconceivable without intelligent sensors; for another, wafer production itself is one of the forerunners of connected manufacturing. It is nearly fully automated and employs artificial intelligence to optimize manufacturing processes in real time.”
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), commented: “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.”