New wireless testbed will bring 5G to smart manufacturing

12 Apr 2021652 Views

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The testbed at SFI research centre Confirm will bring wireless communication and high-speed networks to the manufacturing industry.

A new innovation testbed will look to utilise the latest wireless technologies to transform manufacturing and create smarter factories.

Confirm, the SFI smart manufacturing research centre, has today (12 April) announced the deployment of its future wireless innovation testbed based at University of Limerick.

The testbed was designed to explore how emerging wireless technologies such as 5G, 6G and Wi-Fi 6 could be used to improve the manufacturing sector. It is part of Confirm’s digital manufacturing site, which was launched at the end of last year.

‘It will enable cutting-edge research to deliver the breakthroughs needed for the factory of the future’
– DR EOIN O’CONNELL

Researchers are focusing on industrial IoT, robotics and the deployment of mixed reality in manufacturing and how it could help real-world challenges within the manufacturing sector.

Early tests included a practical study where an autonomous intelligent vehicle was controlled on a 5G network. According to Confirm, the initial results were “very promising” and showed that integrating 5G as a wireless signalling system is a viable option within a manufacturing environment.

‘Cutting-edge research’

The new testbed could support tens of thousands of devices in a small location, with faster connectivity, more bandwidth and low latency.

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The facility could also offer manufacturers the chance to build smarter factories utilising automation, AI, augmented reality, and the larger deployment of IoT devices.

Confirm-funded investigator Dr Eoin O’Connell said the manufacturing sector will be driven by the capacity and scalability of high-speed networks. “The future wireless innovation testbed at Confirm will enable cutting-edge research to deliver the breakthroughs needed for the factory of the future,” he said.

As well as enhanced wireless communication, the testbed will also enable manufacturers to enhance the scale and volume of data collection, improve process flexibility by eliminating wires and improve the ability to process data in near real time.

Prof Conor McCarthy, director of Confirm, welcomed the testbed. “Wireless communication between products, machines, production systems and supply chains form a major part of our digital thread strategy, designed to achieve mass customisation and enable re-configurability in manufacturing plants and associated digital supply chains,” he said.

The testbed’s execution was a collaborative effort between Confirm and Netmore, a multinetwork IoT operator that has been active in Ireland since 2010.

Netmore CEO Ove Anebygd said he is very pleased that the company has been chosen as the facility’s 5G infrastructure supplier.

“The fact that Netmore’s 5G technology is selected for the innovation testbed at the University of Limerick is proof that our services and our technology are suitable in the best possible way for environments that place high demands on capacity, reliability and security.”

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com