MTC trials private 5G network for manufacturers

4 February, 21

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre is to trial a purpose-built private 5G network aimed at helping manufacturers boost productivity.

The MTC is launching its 5G capability in partnership with partners West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Worcestershire 5G (W5G) along with technology partner BT.

The private network will be installed at the MTC’s manufacturing research facility on Ansty Park. The 5G connected facility will allow manufacturers of all sizes to explore benefits from multi-edge computing and wireless connectivity in digital manufacturing and robotics. A live 5G-connected robotics demonstrator will come on stream later in the year and will give companies of all sizes an insight into how 5G can boost their productivity through connected digital innovation.

WM5G is the UK’s first region-wide 5G innovation company and forms part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s 5G Test and Trials programme. The MTC’s first trial will be one of the first projects in WM5G’s Manufacturing work-stream and the company will work closely with the Worcestershire 5G test-bed and its strategic technology partner BT, to supply and integrate the technology infrastructure.

The immediate ambition is to prove the benefits that 5G services can have on the rollout of robotics and automated guided vehicles in a modern production environment and provide a benchmark for the future of 5G manufacturing.

The longer-term aim is to develop a series of 5G use cases bringing 5G connectivity, skills, and applications to the MTC core research programme, supporting its SME Digital REACH programme and offering a test-bed environment for their wider customer and partner base. SME Digital REACH offers SMEs guidance and support to increase productivity through the introduction and adoption of digital manufacturing technology.

With higher speeds, greater capacity, and shorter response times, 5G can unlock the potential of these technologies in a way not currently possible through conventional connectivity. The MTC workshop will be a functioning facility able to showcase this and serve as a test-bed environment.

Alejandra Matamoros, technology manager at the MTC said: “Demonstrating the potential of 5G connectivity in our workshop facilities will advance the MTC’s offering in digital manufacturing and automation. This will help to deliver additional levels of flexibility in production for UK manufacturers and the integration of supply chains.”

She added, “As well as establishing a long-term showcase facility to demonstrate best practice and the capabilities of 5G in manufacturing, the MTC’s 5G-enabled use case will provide valuable insights into safe and accurate AGV movement for fleet management in the implementation of state-of-the-art production lines for the smart factory.”

The first live trial at the facility will see two robots simultaneously operating to deliver the same task and increase the efficiency of a factory operation developed with MTC members. If successful, the trial will be an important step in 5G innovation within the sector and support the aim of helping British manufacturing alleviate the risks involved in the implementation of technology solutions.

Sarah Walker, BT director for corporate and public sector in the Midlands, said, “Today’s announcement forms part of BT’s commitment in working with WM5G and W5G under a shared vision to harness innovative technology to create a smart manufacturing future. We are already leading in 5G innovation across healthcare, education and smart cities, but the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector is key to driving regional regeneration across the UK, starting here in the West Midlands. Deploying a 5G private network at the MTC to develop 5G use cases for local businesses is a significant step towards our shared commitment and we’re excited to make this a reality today.”

Robert Franks, managing director at WM5G, said: “WM5G is committed to supporting the growth of the manufacturing sector in the West Midlands through technology innovation. We are delighted to be working with the MTC as our strategic triallist to prove and share the benefits of connected manufacturing with SMEs. The MTC has been leading the way in exploring new manufacturing technologies such as robotics, digitalisation and intelligent automation for a long time.”

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