China’s Iron Man Manufacturing Safety Initiative
Chinese manufacturers are looking to launch a range of Ironman-like suits that will enhance the capabilities of the workforce. The mech-suits, which are essentially exoskeletons, reduce potential injuries and give users extra strength so that they can shift heavier objects without straining themselves.
The mech-suits have already been in use for a considerable amount of time in China, at both the Shanghai Pudong International Airport and in the new Beijing Daxing International Airport too. Right now, the American automotive manufacturing giants, General Motors, are trialling the prototype product, created by Shanghai-based ULS Robotics. It is said that both Ford and Hyundai are also interested in the mech-suits, and are planning to bring them into their own factories in the near future.
The easiest way to describe these suits is to say that they’re reminiscent of Marvel superhero, Iron Man’s outfit ─ but without some of the enhanced techy features that result in mass-destruction or life-prolonging capabilities.
Originally, the mech-suits were developed for people with limited mobility and wheelchair users, but have now been adapted for industrial jobs that robots cannot perform, and humans are at risk performing.
“ULS Robotics founder Xu Zhenhua said businesses have been putting “emphasis on corporate social responsibility and labour protection” in a bid to avoid workplace-related injuries.
He said the suits have sensors that boost the users' efficiency, saying: “In an automated procedure, it’s easier to detect work inefficiencies and make adjustments. “It’s harder to know a worker’s status. Wearable equipment can help.”
The Range of Robotics
ULS Robotics is developing three exoskeletons that workers can wear to hold and lift heavy equipment. One is for the upper body, another goes around the waist, and the third focuses on the lower limbs. The first two weigh about seven kilogrammes each and allow a wearer to lift an additional 20 kilogrammes. They’re powered by a lithium battery that has a life of about six to eight hours.
Xu said the exoskeletons are most useful along general assembly lines, which still rely to a degree on manual labour. Just as scooters and shared bicycles have helped solve the “last mile” problem for e-commerce deliveries and commuters, so too can exoskeletons help solve “the last person” problem on a production line, he said.
“Future Capital Discovery Fund is an early investor in ULS Robotics. Founding partner Huang Mingming said the exoskeletons solve a problem not only China but the whole world is facing.
“In the past 30 years, China gained an advantage because we had many young people and a low-cost labour force,” Huang said. “However, ageing and a declining birthrate started from the early 2010s. While the auto industry is already highly automated, experienced workers are still needed for the final general assembly. That’s not replaceable.”
So no thrusters just yet, but who knows, they might be added in the future, depending on the industries that adopt these unique pieces of kit! Even without the thrusters, though, it’s safe to say that manufacturers the world over are starting to prioritise their staff, and these exoskeletons are hopefully just the first step down a road that will see workplace-orientated injuries gone for good.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.