Industrial Wi-Fi and Factory Automation

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Jan 5, 2023 by Taylor Krieg

Industrial Wi-Fi and factory automation is an exciting and dynamic topic, with new developments emerging daily. Many sophisticated machines help improve, expedite, simplify, and economize manufacturing processes. These automated machines can do everything from drilling precise holes, to assembling a complex circuit board, to automatically transporting bulky components on moving platforms from the warehouse to the appropriate assembly stations. These same machines can carefully monitor the quality of the fabrication process, monitor their own calibration and condition, and they can report any anomalies to humans and/or other machines.

Factory automation requires a reliable, high performance, low latency underlying network. In the past, Wi-Fi was shunned by manufacturing facilities because it couldn’t live up to those stringent requirements. Wi-Fi networks, which were initially designed for typical office environments, were generally expected to be highly inconsistent. However, this technology has evolved over the past few years. A properly designed Wi-Fi network is now definitely capable of being the backbone of a modern manufacturing plant.

From a networking perspective, all these impressive machines are simply Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Or more correctly, they are Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices. These devices, with their actuators, sensors, and controllers, are perceived to be similar to Internet-attached doorbells.

Types Or Devices

The very simplest IIoT robotic devices are called actuators. Simply put, actuators cause something to happen. They can turn something on or off and even lock or unlock a door. Actuators can cause a motor to spin, move a robotic arm, install a bolt or a rivet. Multiple actuators can be chained together, sometimes all on the same machine, to perform a whole series of functions. Generally, actuators are triggered by a short signal. The amount of data transferred over a network to one of these devices is quite minimal, and the latency typically isn’t critical. This means that actuators are very easy to support on a Wi-Fi network.

Moving up the hierarchy of industrial robots, the next level of intelligence and functionality is represented by Computer Numeric Controllers (CNCs). These are programmable devices which depend upon their software to guide their operations. They are capable of complex processes, such as cutting intricate patterns into sheets of metal. Once programmed, CNCs tend to operate rather independently. However, they need Wi-Fi connectivity for programming, reporting, and management functions.

Next come Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). These are smart IIoT machines. They have actual CPUs that continuously monitor their processes and make decisions based upon that input. So, if a PLC is cutting the sheet metal mentioned above, it will be checking the precision of each cut, along with the thickness of the metal, and the integrity of the cutting blade. It will self-correct for any minor anomalies. PLCs are also capable of very complex assembly processes, like installing hundreds of electronic components on a tiny circuit board. All of these real-time processes require frequent communication with a central server. This means that the underlying Wi-Fi network must be highly available.

And finally, the most impressive robots on the factory floor are the automatic guided vehicles (AGVs). As the name implies, these are vehicles – typically used for materials handling or load carrying – that move autonomously throughout the factory without a driver. Think of them as self-driving cars. However, they won’t have the same level of onboard programming (or pricing!) as a Tesla. Instead, they need to communicate with a central controller whenever they are underway. AGVs will transmit and receive complex routing, collision avoidance, and logistical information, and they can even support video. Therefore, the Wi-Fi network must be designed to be highly available, provide plenty of bandwidth, and have very low latency.

Summing It Up

The one thing you can always say about industrial Wi-Fi and factory automation is that it’s moving very rapidly, figuratively and literally. From a literal perspective, robots are moving, cutting, measuring, and assembling very quickly. This means that they need high-performance and highly reliable communication channels over the Wi-Fi network. An expertly designed system should be able to satisfy these requirements. The figurative portion of the “rapid movement” means that the technology is constantly evolving, so the Wi-Fi network must be designed with plenty of growth potential in order to be truly future-proof.

Who You Gonna Call?

A successful Wi-Fi network deployment in an automated factory environment can only be achieved with proper planning and engineering. After designing the solution, skilled technicians should install the network, and then monitor its operations.

Mirazon’s experts are ideal partners for these types of networks. They have 20+ years of experience (about the same age as Wi-Fi itself) and many flourishing network deployments.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please call 502-240-0404 or send us an email at

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