The latest manufacturing trends in Industry 4.0 and how our customers are implementing them with our help.
Each of the first three industrial revolutions significantly has improved manufacturing, but they were still relying on humans. The fourth industrial revolution is radically changing the game. IoT-based smart factories are the core of the Industry 4.0. Equipped with machine learning capabilities and based on LiFi technology, these factories will enable true manufacturing automation.
This article provides an overview of the opportunities offered by LiFi technology to achieve manufacturing automation.
Autonomous manufacturing is a methodology that does not require human presence to perform processes. Factories operate in an automated way. Historically, autonomous manufacturing plants have been difficult to implement and have had limited results. Why? Because manufacturing processes are complex and require a high degree of flexibility.
Scope of autonomous manufacturing
Manufacturing is often thought to be a simple, repetitive process. However, it requires advanced planning and management skills. Manufacturing processes involve precision, decision making and sensitivity that are difficult to replicate by machine learning algorithms. There is also a major challenge facing data transmission. A delay in communication can result in the failure of an entire batch of manufactured products and cause schedule and financial delays. Therefore, fully automated manufacturing is still a distant reality. However, thanks to advances in technology, we are slowly moving towards it. For example, the Philips factory in the Netherlands uses 128 robots to manufacture its products in a fully automated process. The factory has only 9 quality assurance employees who oversee the final stage of the process.
Limitations of RF data transmission
Current industrial automation technologies rely on RF radio waves to transmit their data. Theoretically, we can achieve speeds of up to 600 Mb/s and 1300 Mb/s, but actual speeds are much lower. This results in high latency problems that can cause communication delays. Machines cannot operate efficiently with such networks, which is a bottleneck in autonomous manufacturing.
Then there are the security issues. Radio networks can be hacked remotely, leading to data leakage or machine failure. In addition, radio frequencies cannot be used in hostile environments such as petrochemical industries or high interference areas.
To mitigate most of these difficulties, 5G is being considered as a replacement for current network connectivity. It is true that 5G offers higher speeds than 4G, but as 5G is also radio frequency based, it shares most of the challenges. Moreover, 5G requires a lot of work on the infrastructure because the waves are transmitted in short distances. Deploying a 5G solution can be expensive. So is there a solution to these challenges? Yes: LiFi technology. LiFi is a viable option for meeting industrial requirements for data speed and security in autonomous manufacturing.
LiFi is a wireless technology that uses visible light to transmit and receive data. A transmitter source, such as an LED bulb, emits pulses of light containing the data that needs to be transmitted. Receivers collect the transmitted information and interpret it. However, the light pulses are undetectable to the human eye. The concept is similar to Morse code, but the data is transmitted at a much faster rate.
Using LiFi for industrial automation offers a plethora of benefits to manufacturers as:
Enhanced automation: Using LiFi for industrial automation provides fast, secure, and reliable network connectivity with low latency that can help different components in the manufacturing plant communicate with each other seamlessly.
Improved maintenance: LiFi, combined with machine learning in manufacturing, can help in the evolution from reactive to predictive maintenance. Added to that, it significantly reduces machine downtime and maintenance costs. Remember: Machines can be repaired in advance which helps decreasing costs. In the future, automated robots can be deployed to replace spare parts.
Greater security: As LiFi connections are limited to the physical space reached by the light. This leads to improved levels of security. External hacking is not possible with LiFi. Remember: Manufacturing units can be configured to operate autonomously without fear of compromising the network.
Improved decision making: With accurate data available in real time through LiFi connections, companies can make informed decisions. Remember: A machine serie with machine learning capabilities will be able to analyze various data metrics and make adjustments in an automated manner to maximize the efficiency of the manufacturing process. With these benefits, we can bet that LiFi can usher in a new era in manufacturing automation.
LiFi technology offers high bandwidth for data transmission with great transmission speeds. Theoretical transmission speeds can exceed 100Gbps, which is fourteen times faster than the fastest WiFi. Thus, LiFi can help establish real-time communication between machines. They can work as one cohesive unit with zero communication delay. This leads to higher productivity and a significant improvement in production quality.
LiFi offers transmission speeds fourteen times faster than the fastest WiFi.
In addition, unlike RF signals, with LiFi networks there is no interference or network saturation. This ensures seamless communication between machines with very low latency and zero data loss. With uninterrupted real-time communication and zero interference, machines can work autonomously with higher reliability and speed.
Using LiFi for industrial automation also facilitates machine maintenance procedures. Thanks to the real-time monitoring, engineers can quickly identify errors that may occur during production and take corrective action. This helps to improve machine life and reliability and reduce machine maintenance and operating costs. LiFi provides additional cost savings because the LiFi hardware acts as both a light source and a data transmitter.
Thus, LiFi for industrial automation offers increased safety. While RF signals can pass through walls and most objects, LiFi signals are blocked by walls. You can integrate existing encryption and authentication security protocols into LiFi systems to further secure your wireless network. Plants can, therefore, operate without fear of the LiFi network being compromised as long as it is physically contained.
Another feature of using LiFi for industrial automation is, unlike WiFi, LiFi can be used in radio frequency hostile environments. Petrochemicals, for example, are very sensitive to RF waves. Similarly, the power generation sector cannot use RF because of interference issues. LiFi does not face such challenges and can easily be deployed to provide wireless connectivity without threatening safety.
LiFi technology is still in its infancy. However, with the continued research and development of LiFi and other key smart factory technologies, LiFi will play a central role in the data communication that will help these factories function. The benefits of LiFi promise to improve the future of industrial automation. We can start working now to develop smart factories by thinking about LiFi rather than 4G or 5G as the preferred communication technology