"What is a steam turbine? What does it do?" These are the most common questions people ask technicians. The technicians always patiently explain: a steam turbine is a rotary steam-powered engine, in which high-temperature, high-pressure steam is sprayed onto blades. The blades turn the rotor, which is used to power mechanical work.
According to the technicians, "Upgrading steam turbine technology is incredibly important to the country. This equipment will be significant in enabling the technological upgrades of a number of industries, including petroleum, chemical, metallurgy, electricity, shipbuilding, and national defense. This trade is a typical example of the manufacturing industry. Isn't everyone talking about Made in China 2025?"
The implementation of 5G is driving the transformation of numerous industries. The concept of Made in China is rapidly taking on an attribute of intelligence. The plants of Hangzhou Steam Turbine Co., Ltd. (Hangzhou Turbine) are also embracing the intelligent revolution.
5G Improves Efficiency
Recently, China Mobile Hangzhou announced a major breakthrough in the 5G industrial Internet – Together with Huawei, they have worked with a number of enterprises in Zhejiang, such as Hangzhou Turbine, Supcon, and Wynca Group. They have also produced the earliest 5G industrial Internet applications in Zhejiang, including a 5G, 3D scanning and modeling inspection system and wireless instruments. Pilot projects for these applications have been initiated.
Assembling a steam turbine has always been an issue: the rotors of all industrial steam turbines, worldwide, are assembled manually. Most steam turbines are custom-made, and assembling them requires technicians who are more skillful than machines. The core of a plant is the assembly shop, where various branches of the plant collaborate to put together over ten thousand turbine components. Slowdown in production of any of the components can lead to the suspension of the entire assembly line, and even cause serious safety issues.
Inside Hangzhou Turbine's plant, there is a cylinder over half the height of a man, with white stickers all over the body. Next to the cylinder is a metal blade the length of a person's forearm. About eight plant staff members work on these two industrial products, which are two important parts of a steam turbine produced in the plant. The products are custom-made and have a complex outline structure, which demands extreme production precision. In the past, conventional inspections required plant staff to work with inspection equipment. The inspection of one blade used to take two to three days, so quality inspections could only be performed through spot checks.
For engineers, efficient inspections of these complex components have been a great challenge. Fortunately, the 5G, 3D scanning and modeling inspection system has made it possible to tackle the pain points in the plant.
Now, in a 5G-enabled operation workshop, a staff member can use a precision electronic instrument to perform 3D scanning on a cylinder. In another part of the workshop, the 3D model of the scanned cylinder is displayed on the computer screen in real time. By comparing the scanned model with a standard model, they can instantly determine whether the deviation rate of the product is within normal limits. If it is, the model will be highlighted in green; otherwise, it will be highlighted in red.
"The 5G, 3D scanning and modeling inspection system we've built, together with China Mobile Hangzhou, utilizes laser scanning technology in order to precisely and rapidly obtain the 3D data of an object's surface and generate a 3D model," said the engineers. "The massive amount of data obtained is uploaded to the cloud through the 5G network in real time. The cloud server rapidly processes this data and compares the generated 3D model with the theoretical standard model to determine their consistency. This system dramatically reduces the length of the process from 2–3 days to 3–5 minutes. Now, not only can all products be checked, but a quality database is created so that future quality issues can be easily traced and analyzed. This reduces costs and improves efficiency. We are primarily using this system to check the quality of twisted blades and cylinder blanks."
According to the government and enterprise project manager of China Mobile Hangzhou, "Over the past ten years, we have been communicating with Hangzhou Turbine on innovation based on 5G technology and industrial Internet. We established a 5G smart manufacturing innovation lab to develop and incubate innovative 5G industrial Internet applications and boost the high-quality development of equipment manufacturing. To this end, we are attempting to meet Hangzhou Turbine's application scenarios and requirements. This will be achieved by using 5G coverage and devices, leveraging the resources and capabilities of third-party software developers and machinery manufacturers, and taking advantage of the technology of communications equipment vendors like Huawei. The 5G, 3D scanning and modeling inspection system is one of this lab's breakthrough achievements.
5G enables plants to eliminate machine cords
In 2019, 5G commercialization has been accelerating, enhancing the development of smart manufacturing. 5G also lays a solid network foundation for the continuous upgrading of advanced industrial technologies such as IoT, automated control, cloud robotics, smart logistics, and industrial AR.
In many intelligent plants, cables are attached to machines – These cables make up a wired network that enables the remote operation of the machines and real-time data collection. Since last April, mattress manufacturer, Sleemon, has been working to get rid of the cables attached to its machines.
"In the beginning, we were somewhat worried, because spring coiling machines require very low latency. After more than a month of testing, we found that 5G latency was less than 25 ms and performance was stable. This meant that 5G met all of our requirements, and our yield dramatically improved," said Shu Bangkun, Sleemon's Deputy Director for Smart Manufacturing. "The cost of the wired network for machine tools is about CNY3,000/unit, whereas the cost of the 5G network is less than CNY1,000/unit. The network costs of the plant at HQ were reduced by 2/3." 5G has enabled Sleemon to upgrade its smart plant.
5G adds intelligence to "Made in China"
Lou Jian, the project manager for government and enterprise customers of China Mobile Zhejiang, has experienced the dramatic changes being brought about by 5G. "As 5G significantly improves the production efficiency of manufacturing companies, companies are now knocking on our door, but before 5G, we always had to ask to meet with them," He said. "I have appointments with four companies today, and I'm often on weekly business trips. So many companies want a taste of 5G+, and I'm too busy to even stop for a meal."
Today, 5G has become a key technology that is enabling the transformation of smart manufacturing, and connecting widely distributed and scattered people, machines, and equipment to a universal network.
The emergence of 5G is bringing a revolution. 5G supports industrial Internet with a data rate of 10 Gbit/s or more, a transmission latency of milliseconds, a capacity of hundreds of billions of connections, and synchronization that is precise down to nanoseconds. This will lead to a new era in which humans and machines deeply interact and all things are connected. 5G will inject momentum into the quality and efficiency improvements of the manufacturing industry, as well as into the transformation and upgrading of the real economy. This will fuel the development of the industrial Internet.
This is now the general consensus of the world's industrial community. In 2018, the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) was established as a working party of the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturer's Association (ZVEI). 5G-ACIA strives to successfully establish 5G in industrial production and tailor it for industrial capability from the outset.
5G-ACIA brings together representatives of the traditional automation and manufacturing industries, as well as leading organizations from the ICT industry. 5G-ACIA has 26 members, including ICT infrastructure and solution provider Huawei.
Life in the workshop is full of issues, hindrances, and expectations, where technicians strive to make technical breakthroughs.
5G-enabled smart manufacturing is getting conventional workshops into the digital trend. With industries riding the wave of 5G, efficiency is no longer a challenge.
Looking ahead, Huawei will establish more partnerships at a faster pace and continuously enable industrial upgrading.