The government-backed private network will be delivered by Vodafone Business and installed this year in the new E:Prime (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) facility on Ford’s Dunton Campus.
The network will “overcome many of the issues surrounding wireless connectivity in the industrial setting,” Ford said. “It promises reduced delays, wider bandwidth, improved security and reliability, and faster deployment time.”
Installation is expected to be complete in the autumn. The consortium will also create another network at welding research specialists TWI in Cambridge. Both sites’ connected equipment will offer real-time control, analysis and remote expert support, helping develop new manufacturing processes.
Ford will focus on the connectivity of the welding machines in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EV). The batteries and electric motors within an EV require around 1,000 welds. For a single EV, this could generate more than a half a million pieces of data every minute.
Fast, reliable, high-capacity data capture and analysis will be a significant requirement, Ford said. Connecting the data with experts, such as TWI and manufacturers, will help processes develop at the same rate as the products.
“Present technology can be the limiting factor in reconfiguring and deploying next-gen manufacturing systems,” said Ford’s project lead Chris White. “5G presents the opportunity to transform the speed of launch and flexibility of present manufacturing facilities, moving us towards tomorrow’s plants connected to remote expert support and artificial intelligence.”
Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business, said: “5G mobile private networks (MPN) act as a springboard for organisations, allowing them to rethink the way they do business. In this case, MPN technology makes the factory of the future possible. It allows machines and computing power to co-ordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety.”
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