Standardization of 5G within 3GPP was designed from the ground up with ultra-reliability, low latency, and a broad range of spectrum options in mind to meet the demanding requirements for many mission-critical industry verticals. These new capabilities made 5G a perfect fit for industrial automation and Industrial IoT in general. With private networks, 5G can deliver these benefits with ultra-high capacity and low latency for numerous industrial sensors, actuators, and controllers in standard and safety control applications, both in mmWave and conventional sub-6GHz spectrum. 5G offers the promise of being a viable technology to augment, and even replace, traditional wired industrial network connections - a game changer in terms of cost, flexibility, reconfigurability, sustainability, and time-to-market for industrial operations around the world.
The manufacturing industry needs to be flexible to ever-changing market demands. For example, industrial operations need to be retooled to meet shifting demand during the pandemic: switching from soda to sanitizer, clothing to medical masks, or automotive parts to ventilators. The lesson is that agility, efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability are important aspects of smart manufacturing.
Industrial Private 5G is an enabler of digital transformation in smart manufacturing to help deliver business outcomes, such as sustainability and agility by supporting key application use cases:
- Connected worker applications increase visibility and intelligence through mobile digital tools, such as analytics, digital twins, and augmented reality (AR)
- Mobile asset applications increase agility and efficiency with autonomous vehicles, such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMR)
- Untethered fixed industrial asset applications improve sustainability by reducing the need for wired infrastructure to connect static equipment, static equipment with rotating parts, and nomadic equipment (operational while static, non-operational while mobile). Untethered fixed industrial assets also increase agility by reducing the time to retool industrial operations to respond to changing market conditions.
Rockwell Automation collaborated with Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Verizon to evaluate industrial Private 5G technology with EtherNet/IP. The key learning objective was to ensure that EtherNet/IP networks are ready for industrial Private 5G, and to confirm that industrial Private 5G is ready for demanding EtherNet/IP applications.
The testbed illustrated an untethered fixed industrial asset application use case, consisting of:
- Rockwell Automation GuardLogix safety controllers in twelve distributed areas with FLEX 5000 standard and safety I/O, representing skids, machines, or equipment. The purpose of the safety controller in each distributed area was to collect testbed telemetry data only.
- Ericsson radio access network (RAN) infrastructure, composed of a mmWave base station using 28 GHz (n261) and LTE band 2 using Release 15, and Private 5G core (3GPP Release-15, non-standalone (NSA), on-premise).
- Qualcomm Mobile Test Platform (MTP). A mobile test platform for data collection and traffic flow analysis, used as an industrial 5G to Ethernet adapter, referred to as user equipment (UE).
- Verizon's contribution towards defining requirements, target feature sets, and scope of the testbed, including a roadmap of future validation requirements.
Tests were run according to a well-established test plan provided by Rockwell Automation with strict success criteria of zero faults. It outlined a series of test cases to establish reliable EtherNet/IP standard and CIP Safety I/O connections from the GuardLogix area controller, with a range of requested packet interval (RPI) settings, over the 5G RAN to the FLEX 5000 standard and safety I/O in areas 1 through 12. RPI is the rate at which the controller and the I/O exchange data.
The successful test results demonstrated that the current state of industrial Private 5G (3GPP Release-15, NSA, on-premise, mmWave spectrum) has low enough latency and jitter to support RPI settings that are better than the Rockwell Automation default settings for EtherNet/IP standard and safety I/O connections. These RPI settings will support many untethered fixed industrial asset applications (skids, machines, or equipment) that use EtherNet/IP standard and safety I/O communications.
The outcomes of the learning objective emphasized:
- EtherNet/IP is ready for industrial Private 5G.
- The current state of industrial Private 5G is ready for EtherNet/IP standard and safety I/O applica
- Industrial Private 5G can help to enable business outcomes such as increased sustainability and improved agility within industrial operations.
The research collaboration will continue, with plans to evaluate CIP Sync and CIP Motion applications over 3GPP Release 16 standalone (SA) industrial Private 5G.