Rethinking waste management through recycling robots

Victoria's Sunshine Groupe will unveil a global-first artificial intelligence-driven waste sorting system in late July, created by Finland's ZenRobotics. The system Australia will see is the world’s first 3 gantry ZRR unit, built in Tampere, Finland.

The installation process is well under way on the ZenRobotics Recycler three gantry system, which uses AI artificial intelligence combined with hi-tech robotics capable of identifying a large array of C&D waste streams before using a mechanical arm to separate them for recycling.

The local distributor for ZenRobotics, Queensland based Robots in Waste is co-ordinating the installation along with Sunshine Groupe’s Paul Matson & David Boyce.  The commissioning team from the factory are currently at the plant which will see the system go green in July.

The technology has been developed over several year’s now, Jim Duncan from Robots in Waste has a number of viewings planned from domestic and international companies once in operation.

 

How the ZenRobotics Recycler works

The mechanics of the system are twofold: first it uses smart software (artificial intelligence) to identify each item on the belt, then it activates industrial robots to sort them.

The waste runs under a sensor cabinet that includes near infrared spectrum sensors, 3D sensors, a hi-res RGB camera, an imaging metal detector, and a visual light spectrum sensor. All this data is then fed into the ZenRobotics Brain—the software that identifies and sorts in real time.

“(ZenRobotics) proved that the intelligence could control and manipulate an arm and a gripping device, and that more importantly the scanning system can detect and identify items easily – and we can ‘train’ the system to see new objects” Jim said.

The system is assembled on site by ZR crew, the client (Sunshine Groupe) have been working hard to install a suitable feeding system for the robots – each robot gantry can pick 3000 objects per hour, an even feed, and the ability to slow or speed up the feed is also part of the delivery.

 

A return on investment in under two years

A potential client from NSW did their calculations,” he said. “It’s a sizable investment and I can see payback within 18 months.”  It all comes down to being able to operate longer hours, without the need for any additional staff.

“(The potential client) is looking at putting a two-gantry system on a line which currently operates 16 hours a day, with two shifts of eight humans” Jim said.

Staff members could be re-deployed (no loss of jobs), the machine will create an extra automated shift. This would allow the business to increase its productivity, and also the quality of the material being picked.

“He could operate, within reason, 24/7 with minimal expense.

In Sweden one client was asked about the biggest impact on his business by installing a ZRR unit “the ability to load the infeed bunker at 6pm, then close the gate and go home – coming back at 6am to find a nice sorted bundle or recyclables is a great feeling”

 

The future is limitless

Duncan said the interest being shown in the system is across a broad spectrum of clients.

“We are now waiting to start the ZRR at Sunshine Groupe, then begin the next phase of Robots in Waste’s development in the Australia & New Zealand markets,”he said.

“We are only scratching the surface now. We know a lot of companies, not unlike Sunshine Groupe, are ready to make that investment.”

Jim finished off by saying “That is telling us that this project, this product, is something that is exciting the recycling industry.”

 

The Australasian Waste & Recycling Expo (AWRE) returns to Sydney 29 – 30 August, 2018.  Subscribe now to stay up-to-date and to find out when registrations open.