Smart sensors that are wirelessly attached to the component, improve the understanding and control of production processes so that processes can be flexibly monitored and adaptively controlled. What sounds like a far-off vision of the future is already being implemented by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen, Germany: Together with seven industrial partners, the researchers have designed an intelligent and flexible process control system that can process large amounts of data and transmit it almost instantaneously using 5G and cloud technology.
Gaining a direct insight into the production process, recognizing maintenance requirements and failure risks in good time, and converting the information into a targeted and adaptive process control system – these are the goals of the “5GSensPRO” research project. One solution promises to be the development of a flexible control system with 5G mobile communications technology for the connection between sensor technology and machine control. The central element is a so-called “5G Edge Computing Device”, a combination of sensor, data processing and radio unit, which is attached directly to the component and integrated into the manufacturing process.
The 5G Edge Computing Device is able to process sensor data before it is transmitted and, for the first time, fully connect it to the production machine via 5G. Sensor and machine data can also be accessed remotely via augmented reality visualization using a tablet or smartphone and used for direct quality monitoring
5G transmission for real-time control of machining processes
The combination of 5G and intelligent sensor technology allows data processing in the millisecond range even for complex movements of the component and machine. The data is already pre-processed in the 5G Edge Computing Device so that only relevant process data is transmitted. In combination with 5G, this not only opens up new possibilities for real-time control of highly dynamic processes. If the data is stored in the cloud, it can be mapped there in the form of a digital twin and included in long-term analyses. This allows the processes to be further optimized in various ways.
An application example: Adaptive control of a milling process in turbomachinery engineering
The project team tested the function of the 5G-based control architecture using the example of the production of a BLISK component for turbomachinery construction: The 5G Edge Computing Device was mounted directly next to the component. The device records process data such as vibration or temperature directly on the component, processes it itself in advance and sends the “refined” data with 5G in real time to a control unit in the machine cabinet, which monitors and controls the process. For visualization of the manufacturing process, the data is also sent to a local computing unit, the so-called edge cloud, and stored for further data analysis.
This example application shows how 5G can be actively used as a control path for a production process in combination with edge cloud. During the research work in the 5GSensPro project, it was also possible to gain initial experience with the complete and direct connection of a production machine via 5G. “The 5G-based architecture presented exemplifies how decentralized edge components and central cloud systems complement each other in a modular approach. Thus we succeed in making production even more flexible and smarter, as demanded by industry,” says Sarah Schmitt, project manager in the 5GSensPRO project.
Partners in the 5GSensPRO project
- Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT, Aachen
- Marposs Monitoring Solutions GmbH, Egestorf
- Meastream GmbH, Eschweiler
- Oculavis GmbH, Aachen
- QSQ, Erkelenz (associated)
- CP Tech GmbH, Büren (associated)
- Ericsson GmbH, Herzogenrath (associated)
- MTU Aero Engines AG, Munich (associate)