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10.11.2022

4.0 fueled by 5G

The new cellular network standard 5G allows for wireless solutions for Industry 4.0, such as adaptive and scalable production structures. Sensors, actuators, and network components by Balluff are at work at the interface to progress.

4.0 fueled by 5G

The future speaks 5G. The expansion of the public grid is well underway, and industry is also increasingly relying on the many advantages of the fifth generation of cellular networks: high data rates and low latency times, plus precise localization even and especially with high device density in production. In addition, 5G supports a seamless handover: connections remain secure even if, for example, a transport robot moves from a factory hall to the outside area and thus changes cell towers. Another major advantage of 5G is the possibility for companies to build their own network. Dedicated frequencies in the 3.7-3.8 GHz range are available for this purpose. This means there is much less interference with other radio technologies, as would be the case with Wifi or Bluetooth.

Key technologies made by Balluff

Sensors plus wireless interfaces are the critical components of a 5G-based production site—they record and transmit all process-relevant data. This is why technology pioneer Balluff has already developed prototypes of the first 5G capable sensors and network components. The system replaces all network cables and thus forms the basis for modern production concepts and autonomous applications, such as mobile operating panels or autonomous logistics robots. The research was part of the project "Synergy Region Stuttgart," which was funded with around four million euros by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport.

At the center of cellular IIoT concepts: wireless components made by Balluff

Balluff has already mastered the 5G connection of sensors for IIoT in practice—as shown here in the form of a compact demonstration system.


“The data is transmitted via tried-and-tested Industrial Ethernet standards such as Profinet. This makes it easy to integrate the components into existing systems."

Christoph Böckenhoff, Technology Field Driver Wireless Communication at Balluff


Experiencing the future in the present

Early October, a nomadic 5G cell station at the Balluff training center in Neuhausen made the technology graspable. Here, Balluff is testing and presenting a functioning model of a manufacturing plant. Color-coded products travel on conveyor belts, while various sensors record parameters such as size or color and transmit them to the process control system almost in real time. “The data is transmitted via tried-and-tested Industrial Ethernet standards such as Profinet. This makes it easy to integrate the components into existing systems," says Christoph Böckenhoff, Technology Field Driver Wireless Communication at Balluff.

Christoph Böckenhoff, Technology Field Driver Wireless Communication, is inspecting one of the many sensors in the Balluff 5G demonstration system.


"The future of manufacturing is based on fluid production, which combines the advantages of island and assembly line production: cost-effectiveness, flexibility and scalability."

Dr. Roland Schaefer, Vice President Innovation at Balluff


Open for standards

For industry, however, 5G is not only an innovative technology but also a new cost factor. Despite the advantages, established wireless technologies will therefore continue to hold their ground in the long term, all the while offering system-related strengths. With its product portfolio and expertise, Balluff supports many wireless technologies: innovative 5G, LTE, LoRa, RFID as well as IO-Link Wireless, which features high reliability, performance, and the topology already known from Standard IO-Link.This enables industrial customers to custom plan and build their way to the future. Dr. Roland Schaefer, Vice President Innovation at Balluff, reaffirms: "We are taking the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) a step further with our experience and expertise in sensor technology and automation. The future of manufacturing is based on fluid production, which combines the advantages of island and assembly line production: cost-effectiveness, flexibility and scalability."