Ericsson, TIM, Comau Test Factory of the Future

Ericsson LM, TIM S. p. A. and Comau have done some experiments on innovative solutions for Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing by leveraging the potential of the 5G network. This initiative is part of the EU-funded 5Growth (5G-enabled Growth in Vertical Industries) project.

TIM and Ericsson has deployed a 5G network at Comau’s headquarters in Turin in Italy. Following deployment, three new applications have been launched to demonstrate the advantages of the new technology. In particular, these applications arise from the slicing functionality of the network within an industrial environment.

Through the 5G growth project, innovative applications for major industry verticals have been demonstrated.

Network Slicing

Network slice is a virtual logical network slice of 5G that can support different application cases with special characteristics and requirements. The same physical 5G network can therefore have multiple slices, each dedicated to specific services or customers. It thus offers greater flexibility and efficient use of network resources. Moreover, there are more opportunities for companies to deploy differentiated services with specific requirements for speed, latency and reliability.

5Growth Project

The European Union-funded 5Growth project deals with the development of 5G solutions following a field-based-trial approach. Specifically, these are capable of meeting the rigorous requirements of major industry verticals, such as Industry 4.0, transportation, and energy. The project, which started in 2019, represents a further step forward in the long-standing partnership among Ericsson, TIM and Comau.

“Comau is committed to defining a disruptive automation paradigm. This involves the use of external sensors to perceive the automation environments and centralize in real time the data perceived to a central “brain”. The information collected is used to automatically define and optimize the tasks to be performed by the machines in a flexible and efficient way,” explained Alessandro Piscioneri, Digital Solutions and Services Segment Leader.

“The 5Growth project, which we have developed in close collaboration with important partners TIM and Ericsson, has enabled Comau to directly field test the value of the private 5G technology as an enabling factor for this innovative architecture, especially in a mobile robotics context,” said Piscioneri.

Three Use Cases

The experiment’s first use case captures the movement of a robot. Through an ultra-low latency radio link, it produces a synchronized digital twin. The movement of the mechanical robot and the respective virtual renderings are perfectly aligned in time. Furthermore, as the central system is constantly updated, it can consequently decide which production process is most convenient while controlling all the function parameters.

The second application focuses on the real-time monitoring of industrial assets. Data is captured from a massive number of sensors. Then, the data are sent to an application that uses the acquired data to improve predictive maintenance planning, production processes and quality. Effective recognition of deviations from normal operation can be fixed in a timely manner. This can be accomplished through the integration with Comau’s in.Grid digital platform. Similarly, remote support and access to cloud-based resources, such as high-definition videos and live connections with augmented reality (AR) devices, strongly reduce the repair time in case of failure.

The third use case demonstrates immersive telepresence for an enhanced remote support scenario. Maintenance staff present on site are assisted remotely by an expert in order to resolve problems. During the process they take advantage of both AR and digital tutorials. It is possible for the operator to share what he sees in real time with remote experts, which translates to time and cost reducing benefits. This can be attributed to high bandwidth capacity of 5G.

Building Customized Businesses

“We are proud to be able to support business development through a digital ecosystem that undoubtedly represents huge opportunities to produce innovative solutions,” said Daniele Franceschini, Head of Innovation at TIM.

“With partners such as Comau and Ericsson, we can guarantee the development of new services and networks that can be configured in real time with a high level of security to create customized business scenarios such as those related to Industry 4.0. Thanks to our skills we will contribute to digitalization, providing solutions that improve the production processes of businesses and public administration,” Franceschini continued.

Alessandro Pane, Research and Development Director, Ericsson Italy, commented, “Together with TIM and Comau, we have demonstrated some applications that are indispensable in a rapidly evolving manufacturing context, where production needs to be safer, faster and more flexible.”

“Network slicing will play a crucial role in enabling innovative services, accelerating the digital transformation of all enterprises. With the tools that have been developed in Ericsson’s R&D centers in Italy, operators can now enable new use cases for different industrial sectors and leverage new market opportunities. Moreover, they can efficiently manage network resources and provide differentiated services with dedicated performance,” said Pane.