Ericsson reveals new use for 5G – making jet engine components

jet engine
Image credit: X-RAY pictures / Shutterstock.com

Ericsson and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology have teamed up to explore and develop industrial applications for 5G, starting with the production of jet engine components for MTU Aero Engines.

The components in question – blade integrated disks (blisk)– are high-tech components where the disk and blades are produced as a single piece and serve the purpose of compressing the air inside jet engines. They are milled out of solid pieces of metal and have extremely high requirements towards accuracy and surface integrity.

Because a blisk is a high-value component, the milling process takes 15 to 20 hours and the total lead time is around three to four months, including coating processes and quality checks, explained Thomas Dautl, director of manufacturing technology, MTU Aero Engines.

Dautl said 5G-based production technology would “help make our operations more efficient” because the ultra-low latency and fast bandwidth make it possible to control machines in real-time, reducing manufacturing costs and improving quality of products.

Ericsson’s 5G trial system – which uses the 3.5 GHz band – is connected to an acceleration sensor mounted directly on the blisk in the production machinery. The vibration spectrum is transmitted in real time via 5G to the evaluation system. The very low latency helps correlate the vibration to the tool’s position and enable prompt adjustment of the production process.

The 5G-enabled blisk case alone can save approximately 27 million euros ($33 billion) for one single factory, and up to 360 million euros globally, according to the latest Ericsson Consumer and Industry Lab Business Value Report. From a sustainability perspective, CO2 emissions from both the production of blisk and their operation in jet engines can be reduced by some 16 million tons annually on a global basis.

Moreover, the fact that 5G is a wireless technology also means machines can be equipped with sensors where fixed connections cannot be installed, and production lines can easily be adapted to new requirements in a fraction of a second, Ericsson says.

“Many of our partners are planning to implement 5G on their manufacturing sites and see a great potential in having this technology in place,” said Thomas Bergs, managing director at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology. “It will help the companies to become more competitive and profitable.”

Arun Bansal, senior vice president and head of market area Europe and Latin America at Ericsson, says the vendor is running 5G industry programs in Europe, North America and Asia.

“There is a strong demand from industries for 5G technology and together we can boost productivity and create new business opportunities,” Bansal said. “The blisk project is a perfect example of what is possible in the industrial context with 5G in the future.”

The use case is currently being evaluated and is presented this week (April 23-27) at the Hanover Fair in Germany.

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