The time when artificial intelligence (AI) was only part of sci-fi movies and books is over. Day after day we encounter new robotic integration in every industry and as a logical consequence, in their supply chains as well.
Award winner in 2013 for Best of Waste Management, ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR) is the world's first robotic waste sorting system. Born from the genius minds of a group of designers from Aalto University, Finnish high-end cleantech startup ZenRobotics presented its impressive brain-inspired AI system at the Slush 2013 startup conference in Helsinki, Finland last November.
The company was founded in 2007. Jufo Peltomaa, vice president of marketing; Tuomas J. Lukka, chief scientist, PhD in quantum chemistry at the age of 20 from the University of Helsinki; and Harri Valpola, principal scientist, PhD in machine learning from the Helsinki University of Technology lead the ZRR's technology team. The company is clearly focused on knowledge and experience, with 50% of team members holding a doctorate.
The Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen, opened the semi-mobile product launch at Slush. The ZenRobotics stand soon became one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of the event. At least it was my favorite and you will see why.
How ZRR works
The ZRR applies machine learning technology. It uses multiple sensors inputs to identify items and raw materials like wood, metal, and stone in waste. The system classifies and sorts them into separate piles for recycling. The range of sensors the ZRR uses may include visible spectrum cameras, NIR, 3D laser scanners, haptic sensors, X-ray, etc.
2. AI control system ZenRobotics Brain
3. Industrial robot
4. Recovered fractions
The fusion of sensor collects data from the waste and the data allows an accurate analysis of waste never done before. The ZenRobotics Brain™ AI control system analyzes the sensor data and controls the industrial robot, which performs multiple sorting tasks simultaneously to perfection. Apart from reclaiming raw materials for sale the ZRR also removes contaminants.
Watch the ZZR in action:
Solar energy makes the ZRR environmentally friendly
The ZRR uses very little electricity, about 10kW. It can also be run off 60 to 100 square meters of solar panels depending on the site's solar energy potential. Containers Maes, a Belgian expert company in sustainable recycling, was the world's first to install a solar-powered ZRR in Belgium in 2012, as reported by PRNewswire.
Attractive, short-term ROI and efficiency of disposal cost savings
I know some of you will be wondering by now about the cost of adopting a ZRR. There is nothing to worry about. This could be the best investment a company might make in its entire history with a profit of $1 million per year, which is about the price of the ZRR. Watch this sci-fi-like trailer to learn about some facts, figures, and predicted ROI:
How ZenRobotics Recycler will impact the future of recycling
At the beginning, the ZRR was created for the construction and demolition industry. However, its global availability and enormous potential has the potential to help solve the world's waste crisis. Thanks to a software upgrade, the ZRR will be able to recognize and pick new materials and analyze the data in the waste stream. The ZRR will serve in the future to other industries, including the electronics manufacturing industry. The first upgrades include:
- Single-stream rigid plastics fraction (e.g., PVC, PE, PPT together)
- Separate rigid plastic fractions (by polymer and color)
- Ferrous and non-ferrous metal fractions separately
- Separate inert material fractions
- Radioactive materials
This basically means that the immortal ZRR only gets better and better with time, and the future can expect a robotics revolution in the years to come. This is just the beginning.