One of the most common topics about recycling plant upgrades is the incorporation of robotics into recycling activities, especially robotic sorting. Initially, waste sorting used to be an issue. And recycling companies thought they could solve this problem by asking consumers to have different bins for each type of material.
However, sorting various wastes into different bins wasn’t so easy to implement and maintain. As a result, many people decided not to recycle at all. Other people were indifferent and put things in the wrong container, thereby tampering with the purity of the material.
Furthermore, this “multi-stream” collection strategy often meant different trucks to pick up the different wastes, a separate truck for each kind of material. And your guess is as good as mine; this dramatically increased the cost of collection.
To solve this, most cities have opted for the “single-stream” recycling strategy to encourage recycling. This implies that one recycling bin will be used for all kinds of recyclable material. As a result, sortation had to be done by the Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs).
As a result of improvements in technology, particularly artificial intelligence-aided vision, sorting wastes and LCD recycling can now be automated.
An automated process handled by recycling robots mitigates the possibilities of human contact with hazardous gases and liquid crystals. Consequently, this prevents injuries that could be obtained from broken glasses from TV screens of LCD devices, fluorescent tubes, etc.
Additionally, several stages in the recycling process require bulk processing and peculiar sorting methods for some materials (such as using magnets to separate metals from the rest of the waste), etc., which can be handled by recycling robots.
If you’re searching for new technology, such as a recycling robot, there are several factors to consider besides what the machine itself has to offer.
Things To Consider When Opting For A Recycling Robot
Before opting for a recycling robot, you should examine all the aspects of your recycling operations. Be mindful that, for that robot to provide your business with the utmost benefits, it must be able to properly sort, separate, and isolate the materials to be recycled.
Robotic machines are used for waste sorting work with a steady stream of consistent material on a single layer. If possible, consistent by size with particles removed, similar by shape, rigidity, and density.
The robotic sorting machine can’t see through the steep depth if the material is piled up. If the robot can’t see the materials, it can’t sort them or continue with other recycling processes.
Most LCD recycling robots, such as the Votechnik ALR-4000, are programmed to process electrical wastes and dispose of them safely and automatically. Votechnik developed the ALR-4000 automated application with a KUKA KR QUANTEC industrial robot at its core.
The ALR 400 can extract poisonous gases from LCDs and remove sharp-edged components. This eliminates any potential hazard and combats the rising heaps of electronic waste.
Before the advent of recycling robots, most electronic wastes were dumped in landfills. This facilitated environmental contamination by harmful components of these products, such as poisonous gases in the LCDs, broken glasses, etc.
Below, we’ve enumerated some things to consider about your operation before buying a recycling robot.
Several types of LCD recycling robots are used to sort different recyclable waste. Each has its advantages and limitations.
Some of these recycling operations require robots suspended from an overhead gantry. Examples of these robots are the Cartesian robots and XYZ robots.
The advantage of recycling robots with this type of arms is that they are solid and can lift heavy weights. However, they’re much slower compared to other kinds of recycling robots.
Another type of robotic arm is the Delta-type arm. The Delta-arm type has the advantage of being very fast. But Delta robots cannot handle heavy items like the Cartesian robots.
So, the recycling operation you’ll be running determines the kind of recycling robot you’ll buy. It doesn’t matter if your operations involve heavy items that take time or mundane materials that can be recycled quickly.
Recycling robots are built with waste sortation diverse gripping strategies. Likewise, each method has its advantages and constraints.
Some robots utilize a two-fingered gripper. Two-fingered grippers pick objects up by their edges. This works well for some LCD TVs. Two-fingered grippers are not so compatible with large pieces of materials where the boundaries are farther apart than the spread of the gripper.
Other robotic systems utilize a vacuum-cup gripper. This gripper has a suction cup at the end of its arms that grabs things from their top surface. Suction cups might have difficulty with crinkled cans or objects with many edges and creases.
Artificial Intelligence System
Typically, most recycling systems use a combination of sensors to distinguish between different materials. Near InfraRed (NIR) sensors utilize the characteristic wavelength of each additional resin to differentiate one plastic from another.
However, reports have it that NIR sensors cannot distinguish black plastics.
Some robotic recycling systems often use visible light cameras to sort waste. When combined with AI, such systems can adapt their behaviour because of their learning.
Furthermore, some robotic systems recognize logos from companies like Starbucks, Amazon, etc. Hence, they can serve as a valuable tool for obtaining information that can be used as feedback to the relevant companies, informing them of the percentage of their recycled products.
Conveyor belts play a significant role in recycling processes because they facilitate the transportation of large and heavy loads of recyclable materials from the loading dock to the sorting line up to the crushing area.
Using a conveyor system also helps to optimize material handling by increasing the storage capacity and mitigating downtime during the recycling phases.
Types Of Wastes That Recycling Robots Can Handle
Due to its peculiarity, recycling robots can handle certain products better than others. These products include;
- Construction Waste: metal, wood, plastic, stone, and concrete can be quickly sorted and recycled by robotic systems
- Dry Household Waste: plastic, glass, and paper products discarded by households can be easily recycled and reused in various ways by robotic systems.
According to The Glass Packaging Institute, glass is 100% recyclable and can be reused continuously without losing its quality.
- Electronic Waste: several valuable rare earth elements are found in electronics. Some of these elements can be recycled to produce several items that we use daily such as headphones, hard drives, etc.
Using modern technologies such as computer vision, machine learning, and robots to identify and sort recycled material is a better way to recycle materials. It mitigates the need for human intervention and improves overall productivity.