The objective of this use case is to assess the viability of operating in factories 5G connected Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs), with the control of the vehicle virtualized at the edge of the network i.e., moving the control of the vehicle out of the physical unit and implementing it in a computing node that meets the latency requirements for the AGV operation. The AGV collects the information from its sensors and sends it to the virtual controller through a wireless connection. This information from the sensors is processed in the virtual controller, identified as virtual PLC, which generates the orders to be executed by the AGV actuators. These orders are sent again through the wireless connection to the AGV, where they lead the actions of the different actuators in the next action period.
The trial architecture encompasses:
The system is connected to the Interworking Layer (IWL) in Turin to allow the launch of tests from the 5G EVE portal.
The trial has been implemented at 5TONIC lab (https://www.5tonic.org), where a circuit for two AGVs has been deployed.
5G NSA coverage is provided at the lab, operating in bands 7 and n78.
The AGVs incorporate two wireless routers that support two connections linked to:
The controlled AGV is an Easybot model, designed and manufactured by ASTI and used in real factories worldwide.
The trial demonstrated that it may be feasible to support an operating model based on the use of virtual PLCs with 5G to control a fleet of AGVs operating in a factory. Measured latency was 10 ms, which is in the lower bound of ASTI’s proposed requirements, and reliability exceeded 99,9999%.
Supporting this operational model has several potential advantages for current and future use of AGVs in factories:
The trial was demonstrated at EuCNC 2019, and has been shown to verticals such as PSA, Volkswagen, Innovalia or Gestamp Group.
The operational model, for being viable in a real factory, requires that the performance of the AGVs operation remains the same as if the classical, on-board control would be maintained. ASTI estimates that the following network related KPIs should be achieved:
Throughput and capacity are not critical parameters for this use case, although they may become in its evolution. Also a zero latency handover would be quite beneficial.
All these KPIs cannot be achieved using 4G technology (although suboptimal operation or operating in conditions that does not require the KPIs indicated above is feasible with 4G and even Wi-Fi), so 5G becomes an enabler for the support of control of AGV fleets with virtual PLCs.
Trial Dates: Q2-2019