A team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS in Dresden has developed a Li-Fi communication module that enables wireless networking between devices used in industrial production.
The technology will be demonstrated at optical communications trade fair, ECOC, from 19-21 September in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The optical transmission technology not only facilitates the exchange of huge amounts of data, but also meets the high real-time characteristics of automated factory systems. The technology is intended to supplement or replace wired fieldbus or Ethernet systems prone to wear and tear.
The module meets the demands arising from the introduction of Industry 4.0 by an increasing number of companies. Sensors, machines and control units will all need to communicate with each other as processes become fully automated and manufacturing and logistics become increasingly computerised. The need for communication between intelligent automation systems, especially in the control and sensor/actuator field will also become increasingly time-critical. Many cases will require the communication system and data transmission cycle times to be synchronised to less than one millisecond.
Companies look to replace slow communication links that currently exist in the field of production and process automation with Ethernet-based and real-time fieldbus systems. Industrial Ethernet systems are wired however, and therefore unable to function without expensive, wear-prone connections, special cables or slip rings.
The Fraunhofer IPMS Li-Fi communication module, named ‘GigaDock’, provides substantial advantages in such situations. ‘Our GigaDock uses the available regulatory-free spectrum of light with a bandwidth up to 12.5 gigabits per second. That's 10 times faster than current wireless solutions such as WLAN, Bluetooth or ZigBee,’ explained project manager Dr Alexander Noack. ‘We were able to achieve very good real-time characteristics at distances of up to 50mm and demonstrate latency values of less than one millisecond.’ The driverless transmitter/receiver modules combine an optical transceiver and a protocol controller with a gigabit Ethernet interface and can thus be easily integrated into industry-standard systems.
Developers from the Fraunhofer IPMS presented the GigaDock communication module along with other Li-Fi demonstrators for greater distances of up to 10 metres from 19-21 September at the 2016 ECOC in Dusseldorf. ECOC is Europe's largest conference and exhibition for optical communications.