The robot has been launched by Finnish start-up firm ZenRobotics, which specialises in artificial intelligence and sensor fusion. The company claims its ZenRobotics Recycler picks items and materials from a waste stream “safely and with unprecedented efficiency”.

The company has just sold its first robot to SITA Finland, who plans to test it in a live environment. Built with off-the-shelf industrial robotics components, the system utilises machine learning to separate raw materials from waste by using multiple sensor inputs such as visible spectrum cameras, NIR, and 3D laser scanners to identify the different items.

After a picking action, the robot performs a post-verification step to check that it has picked the material it wanted. If it hasn’t, it returns the object to the conveyor belt and learns from its mistake. Ultimately, it means the separated waste contains fewer contaminants than was previously possible.

The robot is designed for heavy lifting, so no smashing up is required first. It can also identify, weigh and measure the waste item, collecting data about the separated objects. All this takes place in a near-instantaneous operation.

ZenRobotics claims that unlike any other sorting method, its robot recycler can perform multiple simultaneous sorting tasks, reclaim various raw materials and remove contaminants from the main stream – for example, electronics, PVC, and minerals from the resulting burnable fraction.

ZenRobotics’ CEO Jaakko Särelä said: “It is clear that clean technology will develop to a globally significant business sector. What is now needed is a national strategy for the development of environmental technology.

“Our robotic artificial intelligence-based recycling system is an excellent spearhead that Finland can use in its rush towards international acclaim in clean technology.”

The system can handle all different types of waste streams – commercial and industrial (C&I), municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction waste.

Maxine Perella

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