5G Factory of the Future is an open-access industrial testbed that aims to find new and more efficient ways of manufacturing to help lead industry towards a smart, sustainable and resilient future.

The two-year project seeks to demystify 5G technology and help the UK manufacturing community to realise the benefits of 5G, by developing integrated solutions to key challenges in deploying next generation wireless connectivity in manufacturing. It is using 5G technology to test industrial applications such as robotic assembly, reconfigurable product assembly lines, and the use of virtual and augmented reality for assembly, maintenance and inspection activities.   

Our industrial application use cases are designed to test the most challenging and ground-breaking areas of 5G for manufacturing: increasing bandwidth, decreasing latency, ensuring security across a robust network and augmenting supply chain transparency, ensuring future industrial sustainability.   

The project is exploring ways to dramatically improve manufacturer performance with potential significant reductions in defects and waste through real time monitoring; enhanced machine utilisation and energy saving through digital twin track and trace; and a big reduction in travel and maintenance times brought about by shared hybrid reality spaces.

Led by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) North West, the consortium includes global players BAE Systems and IBM, telecoms and private 5G network provider aql, along with Burnley-based MTT, an SME developer of digitalisation technologies for machine tools, and the Lancashire-based data-driven logistics specialist, Miralis. Digital Catapult is the technical authority lead and is coordinating 5G integration, working closely with aql and use-case developers, and developing the ecosystem of partners required to deliver end-to-end industrial 5G solutions.

The 5G Factory of the Future programme was awarded £9.5m by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which includes match funding from industry. It is part of the government’s £200m investment in 5G test bed facilities across the country.   

It will be based primarily at the AMRC North West’s soon-to-be-built £20m facility on the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone in Lancashire but will also have a significant footprint at BAE Systems’ site in Warton and at the AMRC’s Factory 2050 facility in Sheffield.

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