Control and repair a robot remotely via a digital twin – Hello Future Orange – Hello Future

Monday, November 27, 2023

Reading time: 4 minutes

A demonstration of a digital twin coupled with 5G Stand Alone (5G SA) during the Orange Open Tech Days allows us to understand the concrete potential of these technologies for industry – even in an environment as demanding as that of a pharmaceutical laboratory.

In modern pharmaceutical factories, the heart of production is taken over by robots. You work in sterile, controlled atmosphere areas where the slightest microbial contamination poses a critical risk to product quality. So what happens if these machines experience a technical problem or need for maintenance? Previously, this required human intervention in the clean room, which entailed a long and complex process and often resulted in a damaging standstill in production. During the Orange Open Tech Days, a team from Orange Belgium will show how this complexity can be reduced. Featured case study: the digital twin, coupled with 5G stand alone, of a robot handling test tubes.

The network, from the operator’s headset to the robot, must have high bandwidth to handle significant volumes of data and low latency for perfect synchronization

A digital twin that is perfectly synchronized with the original

Imagine the control room of a 4.0 pharmaceutical factory. Equipped with a Hololens 2 augmented reality headset (Microsoft), an operator views the robot’s virtual 3D double in real time. It can check parameters detected in real time by sensors on the real robot: temperature, belt tension, oil level, error messages, etc. The operator can thus carry out a complete diagnosis of the machine’s operating status. He can also view the history of manipulations, interact with the robot, launch an update or a predictive maintenance application without having to go to the clean room. Result: significant time savings, production interruptions reduced to a minimum and no risk of external contamination during these operations.

Bandwidth, latency and quality requirements

This demonstration shows numerous use cases for this technology. Digital twins of entire cities could, for example, make it possible to control mobility flows or improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Digital test twins could have the function of determining an optimal production flow, carrying out technical approvals, system analysis and acceptance tests before a new industrial production line is put into operation.

“These use cases represent significant technical and safety challenges, which we took into account when developing this pilot,” explains Olivier Nerinckx, Product Manager Device Industry 4.0 at Orange Belgium. The network that extends from the operator’s headset to the robot must have high bandwidth to handle a significant volume of data. The 3D duplicate of the robot is saved in the cloud and then transferred to the headset. The data from the robot’s real-time sensors is also continuously transmitted to the operator in real time. Likewise, we need to have low latency between the robot and the headset in order to have a perfectly synchronized double with the real robot and interact in real time. Finally, ensuring network availability is of course essential! »

The 5G standalone solution

It is therefore thanks to the construction of a 5G SA network that Orange and its partners – Mr. Watts (developer of the digital twin), Staùbli (designer of the robotic arm) and Cilyx (creator and integrator of the production environment) – have been able to achieve the demonstrator project successfully complete. This integrates data protection aspects natively, with the use of a reserved part of this private network, but also hosting in a private cloud. “The project was set up in test and learn mode, particularly with the Microsoft Azur IoT Hub platform. »

An inspiration for companies that change

By opting for such an approach, companies undergoing digital transformation can imagine all kinds of use cases and specific deployments. For example, for even greater cybersecurity, edge cloud computing allows them to develop their digital twin by keeping their critical and confidential data as close to their production line as possible. Industry 4.0 will benefit from other applications of the 5G/Digital Twin pair that Orange Belgium is demonstrating.