The system has been supplied by Zen Robotics of Helsinki and has been used by SITA on a trial basis for the past few months. It has been acknowledged as a breakthrough and is regarded by many as the way forward in the management of waste and recycling. It has proved to be far more safe and healthy and has also improved on the cleanliness of the sorted material.
Established in 2007, Zen Robotics now has 18 employees, 50% of whom have varying doctorates. Most of its research is undertaken at the biggest technical university in Finland, namely Aalto University. Zen Robotics has in the past been involved in mining and the incineration of hazardous waste. They enjoy financial support and funding mainly from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology.
The system has been described by Zen Robotics as an autonomous robotic waste sorting system and uses robots to select certain objects from a waste conveyor line. These objects that are selected could be a contaminant or a valuable raw material. The target objects selected are then identified by numerous sensors including full spectrum cameras, near infra-red and 3D scanners. Once identified the robot removes the object from the stream.
Describing its recycler robot, Zen Robotics has explained that it is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The robot is able to perform a multitude of synchronized sorting tasks. Examples of selected objects are pipes, plastics, toys, cables, fluorescent light tubes, batteries and computers.
According to Zen Robotics, the system will provide a number of advantages to recycling and waste management companies. Any contaminants can be removed and the system can run all day and every day. Running costs are low and occupational hazards are greatly reduced.
David Hennessey, director of Cape Machinery has described the robots as cutting edge technology but it is still early times in the development of the robots. They do have an advantage over current sorting machinery. The waste can be collected correctly due to the more modern sensors employed.
Zen Robotics can produce a dedicated sorting line which is capable of controlling the amount of flexibility required, explained Mr. Hennessey. It can maintain consistent sorting standards and is far more accurate and concise than humans who become bored and lose concentration resulting in indifferent sorting.