5G has become one of the most anticipated technologies for manufacturers in the two recent years. This technology is regarded as being especially crucial for the coming era of enterprise private networks and is also considered to be a key factor for the next-generation manufacturing systems. Chia-Wei Yang, director of the IoT Solution & Technology Business Unit at ADLINK Technology, said that manufacturing systems will take on a variety of additional functions by integrating existing smart infrastructure with enterprise private networks. This will help companies reduce costs, enhance their efficiency, and increase the safety of manufacturing.
Unlike the traditional focus on the consumer market of the 3G and 4G standards in the past, 3GPP took note to integrate corporate scenarios along with consumer use in setting the 5G standard, approving three sets of specifications for 5G communications: eMBB, URLLC, and mMTC. Ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC) are considered to be most relevant to manufacturing environments. ADLINK has recently started working with partners in different fields to aid companies in building a smart system based on enterprise private networks.
Yang further analyzed that 5G enterprise private networks can be divided into two types. One relies on infrastructure built by telecommunication companies, while the other is based on custom-made infrastructure built by a corporation. These two each have their unique pros and cons: the private network relying on 5G infrastructure from telecommunication companies is likely to be fast to deploy and easy to use, but comes with a hefty price tag. On the other hand, a corporation's own custom-built private network will take more time to deploy, but with lower costs and higher customizability, allowing the network to be tailored to the needs of a corporation. ADLINK has established itself in both types of networks. For the first one, the company has been working with major telecommunication providers for many years; with regards to the second one, ADLINK has also started working with partners in different fields. Recently, ADLINK teamed up with AU Optronics, Foxconn Technology Group, and prominent industry equipment vendor Fair Friend Group to build a 5G private network smart manufacturing system.
ADLINK's 5G product strategy is based on the idea of "P5G+X," meaning that products will be based on private 5G with the addition of various smart solutions to customize products for different scenarios. This strategy directed ADLINK's cooperation with AU Optronics and Foxconn. According to Chia-Wei Yang, while AU Optronics provided the testing site and Foxconn built the 5G private network infrastructure, ADLINK was in charge of the various edge devices for smart manufacturing. This includes Internet of things (IoT) devices that retrieve data from terminal equipment, as well as AI platforms that perform image recognition, all of which are connected and controlled via the wide area connectivity and low latency of 5G networks.
Yang pointed out that 5G private networks are undoubtedly, one of the key components for realizing the future vision of smart manufacturing. However, since the manufacturing industry is vast and complicated, there will be a large number of system builders coming from different backgrounds and possessing different expertise. These teams of builders will each require varying levels and types of assistance. Chia-Wei Yang divided the teams of system builders into three categories: teams with expertise in a specific field, teams in charge of AI system integration, and teams made up of internal personnel from the enterprise. ADLINK will be able to provide software and hardware assistance services to all three types of system builder teams.
Automated optical inspection (AOI) companies are representative examples of teams with expertise in a specific area. They are highly capable in terms of both software and hardware deployment and ADLINK's complete product lines will be the perfect one-stop shop for their hardware supply. AI system integrators are usually focused on algorithms and lack knowledge in hardware, as well as specific expertise areas needed for deployment. ADLINK has years of experience in vertical industry integration and a thorough product lines, capable of making up for their shortfalls in those areas. As for teams made up of internal personnel, they are usually tasked with solving pain points within the production lines. Problems in the production lines tend to involve a wide range of issues and usually have no apparent starting point where the team in charge can start to solve the problem. ADLINK can help by clarifying the problem and guiding the establishment of SOPs and processes to gradually lead clients to integrate the equipment needed to construct an optimized manufacturing system.
ADLINK's software and hardware products have already found great success in the industry. Recently, a client managed to apply ADLINK's solutions to ensure worker safety on the production line by integrating AI machine vision platforms with deep learning algorithms. The result was a system that could recognize whether the staff is wearing the appropriate clothing and accessories, check whether product assembly is following SOPs, and enforce virtual barriers that protect the safety of both machines and men in environments in which both are present. ADLINK has also worked with an AI system integrator to build an AOI solution based on artificial intelligence that helped raise the detection rate of flaws on contact lenses to 95%. Chia-Wei Yang concluded that the above mentioned cases are only a few examples of the many projects that ADLINK has worked on. As 5G private networks further accelerate the trend for "P5G+X" products, many more smart manufacturing applications are sure to appear. ADLINK will continue to focus on the R&D of related technologies, as well as seek cooperation with partners in different fields to provide manufacturers with the most optimized high-efficiency systems.
Chia-Wei Yang, director of IoT Solution & Technology Business Unit, IST-Connected Factory Business Center at ADLINK Technology