24 Jul 2024


5G-enabled smart factory will be opened to others for testing

The factory includes a 5G lab that will explore the possibilities of implementing high-speed wireless on shopfloors

The industrial PC and HMI manufacturer Exor International has built a 5G-enabled end-to-end smart factory in Verona, Italy, as an example of the benefits that Industry 4.0 digitalisation can offer to manufacturers of all sizes. It plans to open up parts of the factory to other companies to explore how they could adopt Industry 4.0 practices using wireless communications.

The factory will show what is possible using the latest networking, cloud and edge computing technologies in an agile and modular application environment. Among other things, Exor hopes it will demonstrate some of the potential benefits of digitalisation, including:
• autonomous human resources scheduling, reacting to changes in orders and employee availability in real time;
• indicating whether everything planned for the week, including supplies, components and documentation, is ready for production; and
• providing real-time updates on the status of orders and work-in-progress, regardless of the size of the order.

Exor has partnered with Italy’s largest phone company, Telecom Italia (Tim), and the US-based mobile connectivity specialist JMA Wireless, to provide the 5G private networking technology that will operate in the sub-6GHz and 26GHz bands. It is also working with Intel, which is supplying products for the initiative including processors and software designed to provide industrial edge control and insight capabilities.

The smart factory includes a 5G laboratory designed to demonstrate how manufacturers can build private networks and integrate them with their existing systems. The lab will explore 5G’s ability to:
• improve communications in extreme factory designs;
• enable peer-to-peer communications using industrial robots; and
• implement edge computing using cluster connections instead of wired connections.

Exor will also pilot a visual quality inspection machine that uses Intel’s Movidius visual processor and its OpenVino toolkit to flag defects, dust and scratches automatically in near real time. The technology will also classify the defects before sending the information to factory personnel for assessment.

“We built this smart factory from the ground up to take advantage of the latest 5G and AI technologies from Tim and Intel,” explains Exor’s chief technical officer, Claudio Ambra. “Our smart factory in Verona will demonstrate that digitalisation can happen at any scale. This is increasingly important for small and mid-size manufacturers who are looking to stay innovative and competitive in the market. We can’t wait to share what is now possible for manufacturers of all sizes with Industry 4.0 solutions.”

Christine Boles, vice-president of Intel’s Internet of Things Group and general manager of its industrial solutions division, describes the Exor smart factory as “a great example of how deploying solutions based upon standards with open architectures can help lower maintenance costs, increase productivity and take advantage of new business opportunities”.

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