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Bosch launches 5G tests at Reutlingen wafer fab

Dennis Christmann

Dennis Christmann >

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International research project explores use of 5G in manufacturing

  • 5G will be a key factor in the successful transition to Industry 4.0
  • Bosch semiconductor plant takes a leading role in 5G
  • New Bosch wafer fab in Dresden will be 5G-capable from the outset
  • Research project examines conditions for new communications standard

Stuttgart, Germany – As an Industry 4.0 pioneer, Bosch believes 5G will be a key building block of digitalization and connectivity in manufacturing and logistics. The company is now starting compatibility tests and channel measurements for setting up a 5G network in its wafer fab in Reutlingen. “We at Bosch started researching and developing 5G early on, and we are convinced that this new mobile communications standard will give Industry 4.0 a boost,” says Dr. Michael Bolle, the Bosch CDO/CTO. For this reason, the company is taking an active role in the international 5G-SMART research project, which aims to test, demonstrate, and evaluate the new communications standard in real-life manufacturing environments. The 5G-SMART partners will be testing 5G manufacturing applications at the Bosch wafer fab in Reutlingen, as well as at the Ericsson location in Kista, Sweden, and on the Fraunhofer IPT’s 5G Industry Campus Europe in Aachen.

Setting up a 5G network at the Bosch wafer fab in Reutlingen

Industrial manufacturing is undergoing a digital transformation: manual processes are in decline, technical assistance systems are making inroads, sensors transmit a wide range of data, and the degree of connectivity between people, machines, and systems is rising. In all this, 5G is the key. “Fast, reliable, and secure data transmission is the basis for Industry 4.0. Combining it with 5G will allow us to further ramp up and improve factory production,” Bolle explains. At its wafer fab in Reutlingen, Bosch is currently launching compatibility tests in partnership with Ericsson that are designed to explore the extent to which 5G impacts manufacturing. “Semiconductor production is extremely complex and sensitive. These microscopic wafers undergo more than 1,000 tests before ending up in a wide array of products, ranging from airbags to smartphones to e-bikes. In a factory environment, electromagnetic waves can be a source of interference, so we’re testing the impact 5G has on production,” says Andreas Müller, who works for Bosch as a researcher and is the chairman of the international 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA). Channel measurements are also on the agenda. As a means of delivering insights into how to ensure optimum network coverage as well as where and how densely transmitting antennas need to be placed throughout the plant, for example. Bosch plans to use those findings as it sets up a 5G test network in its wafer fab in Reutlingen by fall, where it will roll out the first 5G applications. During this process, engineers will observe how machines and systems can work with 5G and investigate how much better and more efficient this connection is compared to Wi-Fi or cabling. Fields of application include autonomous transport systems that can be guided via a local cloud, remote access to machinery, and communication between industrial systems.

Wafer fab in Dresden: Bosch’s first 5G-capable semiconductor plant

Results from the Reutlingen research project can also be put to good use in future 5G network planning, for example in the company’s new wafer fab in Dresden. “In Dresden, we are building Bosch’s first 5G-capable semiconductor plant worldwide. The facility will be ready for 5G from day one,” Bolle says. Bosch is investing around a billion euros in the new wafer fab – the largest single investment in the company’s history. Semiconductor production is scheduled to begin there by the end of 2021.1 Microelectronics are paving the way for Industry 4.0 on various levels. For one, Industry 4.0 is inconceivable without intelligent sensors; for another, wafer production itself is one of the forerunners of connected manufacturing. It is nearly fully automated and employs artificial intelligence to optimize manufacturing processes in real time.

EU research project examines conditions for 5G in manufacturing

For the 5G-SMART project, a multidisciplinary team of telecommunications companies, network and factory operators, plant and mechanical engineers, and universities is combining 5G with Industry 4.0 solutions. The project partners are also testing the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in Bosch’s Reutlingen wafer fab, taking channel measurements, and evaluating how 5G behaves in a real-life manufacturing environment. In addition, they aim to identify new 5G business models. Funded by the European Union, the project is scheduled to run for a total of two and a half years and will end in November 2021.


1 The industrialization of innovative semiconductors in Dresden, Germany is taking place within the scope of the „IPCEI Microelectronics“ funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

Tags: Industry 4.0, IoT, 5G

Further information on the project is available at: www.5gsmart.eu

More information on Bosch's 5G activities can be found on Bosch Media Service.

About Bosch

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 400,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2019). The company generated sales of 77.7 billion euros in 2019. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT provider, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, Industry 4.0, and connected mobility. Bosch is pursuing a vision of mobility that is sustainable, safe, and exciting. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to facilitate connected living with products and solutions that either contain artificial intelligence (AI) or have been developed or manufactured with its help. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiary and regional companies in 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs some 72,600 associates in research and development at 126 locations across the globe, as well as roughly 30,000 software engineers.

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861–1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com, www.iot.bosch.com, www.bosch-press.com, www.twitter.com/BoschPresse.

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