5G: Ford plans private network to speed up electric vehicle manufacturing

New private network will replace Wi-Fi and support electric car ambitions.

The industries at the forefront of 5G

Car maker Ford plans to roll out a private 5G network to speed up electric vehicle manufacturing at its electric vehicle battery workshop.

The 5G mobile private network will be installed this year in the new E:PriME (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) facility on Ford's Dunton campus in Essex.

The new network will replace the existing Wi-Fi network and aims to overcome many of the issues surrounding wireless connectivity in the industrial setting, the car maker said.

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The project has been partly funded by the UK government, which provided £2 million to back a pilot trial at the facility earlier this year as part of a £65 million plan for investment in 5G.

Ford will focus on the connectivity of the welding machines in the manufacture of electric vehicles.

The batteries and electric motors within an EV require around 1,000 welds, and for a single product this could generate more than a half a million pieces of data every minute. This means fast, reliable, high-capacity data capture and analysis will be key. The consortium led by Ford and Vodafone Business will install a second network at welding research specialists TWI, based in Cambridge. Both sites' connected equipment will offer real-time control, analysis and remote expert support. 

Chris White, Ford's 5GEM project lead, said that existing technology can be the limiting factor when deploying next-generation manufacturing systems.

"5G presents the opportunity to transform the speed of launch and flexibility of present manufacturing facilities, moving us towards tomorrow's plants connected to remote expert support and artificial intelligence," he said.