This paper aims to illustrate the growing role robots are playing in recycling and product disassembly and provide an insight into recent research activities.
Following a short introduction, this first considers robotic waste sorting systems and then describes two systems for the disassembly of electronic products. It then provides details of some recent research activities. Finally, brief conclusions are drawn.
Robotic systems exploiting artificial intelligence combined with various sensing and machine vision technologies are playing a growing role in the sorting of municipal and industrial waste, prior to recycling. These are mostly based on delta robots and can achieve pick rates of 60-70 items/min and be configured to recognise and select a wide range of different materials and items from moving conveyors. Electronic waste recycling is yet to benefit significantly from robotics although a limited number of systems have been developed for product disassembly. Disassembly techniques are the topic of a concerted research effort which often involves robots and humans collaborating and sharing disassembly tasks.
This provides an insight into the present-day uses and potential future role of robots in recycling which has traditionally been a highly labour-intensive industry.
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