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5G boost for North West manufacturing

The forthcoming Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Lancashire will feature a ‘5G-Factory of the Future’ testbed, backed by almost £10 million in public and private investment.

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The programme will help manufacturers to capitalise on the transformative power of 5G technology and will play a key role in enhancing the North West’s reputation as a hot-bed for advanced manufacturing innovation.

Super-fast 5G connectivity has the potential to unlock a range of cutting-edge technologies, such improved real-time monitoring to reduce defects and waste; ‘digital twins’ to enhance machine utilisation and energy saving; and shared ‘hybrid reality spaces’ to reduce travel and maintenance times.

The testbed will be located at the soon-to-be-built AMRC North West in Preston, an expansion of the industry-leading AMRC at the University of Sheffield. The core role of the AMRC is to help manufacturers to introduce advanced techniques, technologies and processes into their operations.

The 5G FoF programme will also have a significant footprint at BAE Systems’ recently-opened Factory of the Future in nearby Warton, which features automated robots, virtual and augmented reality and a fully digitised virtual office.

BAE Systems’ Manufacturing and Materials Technology Director, Andy Schofield, said:

“This is a big win for the region and shows our commitment to keep Lancashire at the forefront of advanced manufacturing in the UK. The 5G FoF programme will drive forward holistic connectivity and unlock the potential of industrial digitalisation. It will define a new paradigm for how future factories will operate enabling connectivity and business agility both across manufacturing operations and beyond, into the supply chain.”

As well as BAE Systems, the consortium behind the project includes the UK Catapults network, IBM, network provider Three, and Burnley-based digitalisation technology developer MTT.

Ben Morgan, Director of Research at AMRC, added:

“There are so many possibilities for innovation and productivity improvements that 5G can open up. The digital twin work strand will enable reconfigurable assembly lines, while the high-level monitoring of machines and shop floors will allow partners to develop, integrate and test products-as-services previously limited by bandwidth/latency.”

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