>> Imagine simultaneously working on the same complex product with colleagues in multiple distant locations while everyone sees the result of the work right before their eyes. That’s exactly what Ericsson-powered 5G will deliver for UK vehicle battery manufacturer Hyperbat in a proof-of-concept virtual reality digital twin partnership with communications service provider BT and other technology leaders.

The trials are set to establish Hyperbat, a joint venture between Williams Advanced Engineering and Unipart, as a pioneer in the UK’s drive to make fourth industrial revolution manufacturing a reality.

A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical object – in intricate and specific detail – viewed through a digital interface, such as virtual reality glasses. In the case of Hyperbat, the technology will allow design, engineering and manufacturing experts to cooperate on a 3D engineering blueprint from various locations to impact physical products at the company’s Coventry production complex.

Real-time VR teamwork

Hyperbat design and engineering teams will be able to virtually walk around and interact with 3D life-size objects in real time through a single self-contained device. Employees in different locations will be able to build a 1:1 scale physical product on the factory floor, review designs in real time, explore form factors such as maintenance and crash detection of an electric vehicle and retro fit high-performance batteries into specific dimensions.

The key enabler is the high speed, low latency and large data handling capabilities of an Ericsson 5G mobile private network deployed by BT and integrated by Ericsson’s D-15 Labs in Santa Clara, California.

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The technology has the potential to transform the traditional manufacturing process through efficiency gains in product management systems, supply chain and factory operations.

Björn Odenhammar, CTO, Networks and Managed Services, Ericsson UK and Ireland, says: "5G will have a transformative impact in the industries and technologies of the future. This collaboration with BT, Hyperbat and other eco-system partners is another demonstration of how low latency, edge compute and wireless networking will be critical to digitalisation within the enterprise sector. By delivering operational efficiencies through 5G technology, we are laying a foundation that can help to drive innovation in manufacturing, boost the economy and position the UK as a leading 5G nation."

Incredible consortium of partners

Hosein Torabmostaedi, Manufacturing Digital and Innovation Manager, Unipart, says: ‘‘Hyperbat is honoured to be working with such an incredible consortium of partners to pioneer a solution that lays the foundations for smart factory architecture and efficient, flexible and collaborative manufacturing. The solution is mainly targeted at collaborative mobile workforce with the use of 5G native headsets and seamless integration of design and manufacturing systems with the digital twin technologies. Hyperbat also hopes to extend the solution to the use of 5G connectivity for machines to enable configurable and flexible production lines. The solutions will be demonstrated and trialled at Hyperbat’s facility in Coventry, United Kingdom."

Jeremy Spencer, 5G Innovation Senior Manager, BT Enterprise Unit, says: "The 5G digital twin solution is a powerful reminder that 5G connectivity and Edge Compute is very much here now, delivering real business benefits for our customers. We have seen how 5G connectivity combined with the latest technology can produce incredible efficiency gains which are so important in boosting the UK manufacturing sector in a post-Covid recovery era as well as many other industries where collaboration is required. We’re delighted to work with Hyperbat and such a strong network of partners to bring this innovation to life, a testament to the value of an integrated partner solution."

Details of the proof of concept were announced at NVIDIA 2021 GTC conference on April 13. Other partners include Dell, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Masters of Pie and The Grid Factory.

The BT and Ericsson 5G VR digital twin solution will be deployed on a 5G mobile private network, with Qualcomm’s 5G native VR headset and Masters of Pie platform. This will enable Hyperbat to use cloud-based mixed reality within computer-aided design (CAD) software. The solution will be run over Dell’s high-performance edge compute platform and includes cutting-edge hardware from NVIDIA to seamlessly integrate into existing factory floor operations.