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ABB announces ‘first’ use of 5G and AI for assembling drives

17 June, 2019

ABB is piloting what it describes as the world’s first industrial application using artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G wireless technology to assist in the assembly of drives. The application, at a plant in Helsinki, Finland, will support the plant’s workers by using a camera to monitor them as they assemble drives, and ensuring they perform the work in accordance with customers’ orders and appropriate work instructions. The fast 5G connections will allow real-time feedback, and this should make assembly “significantly” easier than having to follow work instructions from a paper document, thus helping to improve quality.

ABB is implementing the application in partnership with the Finnish software engineering firm, Atostek Oy, which specialises in industrial applications, and the mobile phone operator, Telia. Atostek is responsible for the computer vision and the AI application. Telia is providing the high-speed 5G mobile connections as well as the necessary computing capacity in its data centre. The project is being implemented in stages, and is due to enter full-scale operation this month.

The application is being implemented on the power module assembly line at ABB’s Pitäjänmäki plant in Helsinki. This process is critical to production quality and demanding for employees because dozens of different versions of the same product are assembled on the same line.

“The potential of AI is strongest when combined with human expertise, and the goal of supporting employees in a new way is at the heart of this project,” says Chris Poynter, group vice-president for ABB System Drives. “At its best, this real-time quality assurance system not only improves production line quality and productivity, but also reduces the stress associated with human errors, which helps improve wellbeing at work.”

The pilot installation of 5G and AI technologies will help workers at ABB's Helsinki plant to assemble drives reliably.

By introducing the 5G and AI application, ABB and its partners are exploring how industrial applications that require high data capacity and powerful computing processing can be implemented in scalable form, regardless of location. In future, the AI application could be integrated with enterprise resource planning systems.

5G allows wireless technologies to be applied much more widely than has been possible previously, and this is expected to boost global production significantly over the next few years.

The Pitäjänmäki plant leads the company’s development of low-voltage drives. The site has around 1,300 employees.

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