26 June 2020
Ford, together with consortium partners, has received backing from the UK Government for the introduction of 5G connectivity, which it believes will speed up the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing process.
A 5G mobile private network, delivered by Vodafone Business, will be installed this year in the new E:PriME (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) facility on Ford’s Dunton Campus, the carmaker’s main research and development facility in Europe. The Vodafone Business 5G solution promises reduced delays, wider bandwidth, improved security and reliability, and faster deployment time.
By the time installation is complete in the autumn, E:PriME Dunton will have the fastest possible connectivity alongside the consortium’s second network at welding research specialists TWI, based in Cambridge.
Both sites’ connected equipment will offer real-time control, analysis and remote expert support, ensuring that new manufacturing processes are shop floor-ready.
As Ford begins to increase its electric-vehicle manufacturing, with the Mustang Mach-E leading its charge into the market, the carmaker will focus on the connectivity of the welding machines in the manufacture of these models.
The batteries and electric motors within an EV require around 1,000 welds. For a single EV product, this could generate more than half a million pieces of data every minute. Fast, reliable, high capacity data capture and analysis will be a significant requirement of these processes. Connecting the data with experts, such as TWI and manufacturers, is critical if processes are to develop at the same rate as these innovative products demand, the manufacturer believes.
As carmakers increase the number of EVs they produce, manufacturing methods are always under development to ensure costs come down and the technology can be affordable. While 5G is often touted as a much-needed technology for autonomous vehicles, its use in production can accelerate communications between equipment and allow for automated machinery to work more efficiently.
The move by Ford comes as part of an announcement by the UK Government to invest £65 million (€71.8 million) in nine consortia for harnessing the potential of 5G.
‘We are determined to harness this revolutionary technology to boost the productivity and growth of UK industries,’ commented Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.
‘We want Britain to be a world leader in 5G, and since 2017 the Government has invested millions in ground-breaking testbeds and trials across the country to achieve this.’
Ford is already credited as a leader in autonomous driving systems, another area in which 5G connectivity is seen as essential, thanks to its investment in Argo AI. Earlier this month, the carmaker closed a deal with Volkswagen that will see the German manufacturing group take an equal stake in the business.