Remote robot pilot

Wireless technology adds an invisible new safety layer to automated production.

Furthering the interaction between humans and production robots, 5G technology is being employed in a new pilot conducted by Audi and Swedish network provider Ericsson.

20 February, 2020

Since 2018, Audi and Swedish telecommunications corporation Ericsson, have been testing the use of 5G wireless and network technology for the production of vehicles. Now the collaboration is investigating greater human-robot interaction in a pilot project using the latest 5G technology.

Safety for the human operative is paramount in the pilot, with an industrial robot used to install an airbag module into the steering wheel of an Audi. The robot cell is protected by safety sensors and as soon as a human hand breaks through the cell's light curtain, the robot stops automatically to avoid any chance of injury. In order to achieve this instant stop, a high-frequency (fieldbus) communication is required with an end-to-end delay of roughly one millisecond. 

This is where the 5G technology is invaluable, given that it is more reliable and reacts more robustly to high usage levels than other wireless technologies.

This makes it particularly suitable for connecting sensors, machines and devices operated by human beings, as seamless communication in real time is essential in allowing wireless production robots and employees to work together smoothly in the future.
“5G combines all points in our production environment and this leads to enormous improvements in flexibility and connectivity and shows how humans and robots can work together safely,” says Arjen Kreis, Head of Planning Body Shop Automation Technology, Audi Neckarsulm. 

“As part of our project with Ericsson, we are testing the possibility of 5G technology for industrial applications in the smart factory in the Audi Production Lab,” says Dr. Henning Löser, Head of the Audi Production Lab.

“These projects will teach us more about how wireless networks can be used optimally in a smart factory.” 

At the end of the day, it is all about what Marie Hogan, Head of Mobile Broadband at Ericsson calls, ‘cutting the cables’ – which is a real turning point in the Industry 4.0 era.

As soon as a human hand breaks through the cell's light curtain, the robot stops automatically avoid any injury to the person