Industrial Automation

5G and TSN: Working Together to Meet Real-Time Requirements

Lukas Bechtel
Integrating 5G and TSN could be a critical step toward establishing more fully connected and productive industrial environments.


Automation. AI-driven analytics. Automated guided vehicles. Augmented reality. As industrial environments build more technology like this into their processes to self-monitor and improve production in real time, their complexity is growing.


Along with more complexity often comes more risk. Just a few seconds of downtime can be damaging in terms of productivity, safety and revenue. Consider these three examples.


1. Automating processes and workflows

Collaborative robots (cobots) and other types of industrial robots, such as Cartesian or Delta robots, require precise control during live production. Through technology like intelligent motion control, sensors and actuators are used to manage deterministic motion of robots.


Interconnection with sensors, other robots and devices, and networks enables the data processing needed for these operations. This is especially vital for cobots, which are built to work alongside humans without barriers, guards or fences. Real-time communication during this process is critical to ensure that robots execute the specific functions required for their application—safely and quickly.


Low-latency, secure connectivity with the cloud enables robots to gather, analyze and respond to information about what’s happening in their environment in real time, as well as receive instructions and maintain situational awareness.


A short breakdown in communication can lead to production problems or safety issues.


2. Preventing equipment failure before it happens

Machine runtime is critical to maintain productivity and revenue. Continually collecting and analyzing real-time machine data points like internal temperature, noise level and vibration, RPM of spinning parts, etc. reduces the time and costs associated with unnecessary maintenance while making sure machines don’t experience failure.


Real-time data gathering and cloud connectivity help determine what maintenance is needed—and when—based on equipment condition and operation, as well as predictions about future state.


When abnormalities are detected during operation, real-time alerts can be sent to the machine operator or plant manager to warn about a potential issue that requires investigation and remediation. This empowers workers to maximize equipment performance, availability and productivity.


Without these real-time capabilities, predictive maintenance wouldn’t be possible. Instead, reactive maintenance—responding to issues after they occur—would be the only option. Following this approach to maintenance, issues aren’t addressed until they’ve already impacted operations.


3. Building a product right the first time

The American Society for Quality says that the average manufacturer spends between 15% and 20% of its revenue on quality-related costs.


Real-time monitoring of the manufacturing process through sensors and other devices allows product quality to be tracked at every stage to ensure consistency, high quality and regulatory compliance. It enables fast identification of production errors and irregularities so they can be corrected immediately to reduce waste and rework.


Without the ability to track and correct processes in real-time, workers may not realize for hours—or longer—that there’s a production problem. Sometimes, it isn’t discovered until a customer receives a poor-quality product.


5G and TSN Integration to Support Industry 4.0

To enable this level of digital transformation and industrial automation, and the real-time applications that drive efficiency, more manufacturing environments are exploring the integration of 5G and TSN (time-sensitive networking).


What is TSN?

TSN is a set of standards defined in IEEE 802.1 and IEEE 802.3 to introduce mechanisms for Quality of Service, reliability and configuration. As an evolution of Ethernet, TSN makes Ethernet deterministic. It also allows different types of traffic to share the same network.


As you can guess by its name, the concept of “time” is what TSN is all about. It makes sure that mission-critical information moves from one point to another in a specific amount of time through protocols for timing, time synchronization and data traffic control and prioritization.


What is 5G?

5G is cellular technology, defined by 3GPP, that offers significantly higher bandwidths, nearly delay-free connections and improved security mechanisms.


It can support mobile automation and the fast-roaming wireless needed to ensure connectivity with very low latency and high reliability in automation environments.


Bringing the two together

5G can bring the real-time capabilities of TSN to wireless networks for industrial communication. While TSN supports wired connectivity, 5G supports mobile and cloud connectivity.


Bringing 5G and TSN together could be a critical step toward establishing more fully connected and productive industrial environments and supporting controller-to-controller, controller-to-device and device-to-compute communications.


Making TSN over 5G possible today

5G has the capabilities required to work with TSN in industrial automation applications, and 3GPP has made significant strides toward integrating 5G systems with TSN. Release 16, for example, introduces 5G enablers. But 5G still currently lags behind when it comes to making this possible. Meanwhile, the margin for error in manufacturing environments continues to shrink.


That’s why Belden is developing new architectures to help industrial environments take the first steps toward this technology integration. We can help you save time and resources while ensuring consistency and reliability.


These solutions will help manufacturing plants to build the future by integrating 5G and TSN for seamless wired and wireless integration.



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