Finnish robotics firm develops trash recycling robot

April 20, 2011 by Bob Yirka, report

( -- The Finnish firm ZenRobotics has designed and built a robot that can sort through construction waste and pluck out recyclable material moving by on conveyer belt and then deposit it in an appropriate bin. The robot is currently able to correctly identify roughly half of the material it processes, which may not sound that impressive, until you consider that as things stand now, nearly 100% of such construction waste now winds up in landfills, un-recycled and polluting the planet.

The as yet unnamed is basically an arm with a gripper connected to a computer and uses various already proven technologies to perform its task, such as metal detection, weight measurement, 3-D scanning, and analysis to measure light waves bounced back off of different materials. It’s easy to see how new measuring devices could be added as they become available, especially when you consider the massive amounts of money already invested by various space agencies for probes sent to space to do essentially the same thing as they investigate planets, comets, etc.

This type of work is groundbreaking due to the fact that robots have been traditionally relegated to performing more easily definable tasks, such as repeatedly welding two pieces of metal together. To separate good trash from the bad, however, a robot must first be programmed to recognize very basic materials, and then to “learn” as it goes, by doing, i.e. it must have some degree of artificial intelligence. In the current setup, construction waste is deposited onto a conveyer belt where it is carried into a processing room where the robot resides. The robot reaches down and grabs stuff off the conveyer, analyzes it, and if it recognizes what it sees, drops it into a nearby bin marked for just that type of material. Anything not recognized stays on the belt and is deemed trash. Currently, the robot is able to identify certain types of plastics, metals, concrete and wood.

Using such a would not only help to recycle construction waste, which some believe accounts for up to half of all landfill material, but would be able to do so in an environment that oftentimes is hazardous to humans due to the wide mix of sometimes toxic materials that arise when buildings are being built or torn down.

Explore further: Robot Trash Collectors Are Roaming the Streets of Italy (w/ Video)

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not rated yet Apr 20, 2011
Looks like it could be practical. (They were having too much fun with that video, though.) Rather than a regular spectrometer it might be better to control the light, using a single frequency at a time or a tunable comb spectrum. With a high speed B/W camera and rapid changes in color, one could get a spectrogram for each point in the image, thus making complex materials and assemblies more recognizable. One could also use Bayesian methods to determine the minimum number of different colors that need to be sampled in each instance. A small set of tailored bright-line spectra could be used if the list of different materials that need to be identified is small. Spatially structuring the light (or perhaps using a separate light& camera) would help 3D. Other sensors might also help in distinguishing materials- magnetometer, x-ray spectrometer, triboelectric sensors, Raman, etc. - certainly a magnetometer would be a good, cheap idea. Load sensing to estimate density might also be worthwhile
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
Hilarious video.

"Waste. Humanity turns to Waste. Waste is killing the planet. Waste."

LOL! Seriously, though, could have decent market potential.
not rated yet Apr 22, 2011
that video

Shut up and take my money!

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