ZenRobotics Recycler: Automating the recycling of waste

The ZenRobotics Recycler built by Helsinki ZenRobotics Ltd is a new generation of industrial robots which recycle building and demolition waste automatically sorting wood, stone and metal separately. The new robots can now double the capacity of their first system released in 2012.

The robots use a variety of sensors including metal detectors, NIR (near infra-red as used in night vision), “ordinary” video cameras, 3D laser scanners and haptic (touch) sensors to analyse and identify the waste on a conveyor belt.

The so-called “ZenRobotics Brain” artificial intelligence system uses this information to decide what each item of waste is and into which recycling bin it should be placed. The control system has some intelligence and the ability to learn and uses this to improve its sorting techniques and to pass this information onto the other robots. The ZenRobotics Brain’s algorithm is based on the real-time functions of the human cerebellum, which is responsible for controlling movement and co-ordination.

Each robot can pick up to 4,000 items per hour at peak times and working on an average of 3,000 per hour. Their grippers have a reach of 2m and can pick items up to 50cm wide and 20kg weight.

The robots are currently in operation at SITA Suomi Oy waste sorting plant in Helsinki and at the Baetsen recycling plant in the Netherlands.