Robot With Laser Vision Sorts Plastics, Boosts Recycling


Photo via Osaka University

Plastic recycling is often a conundrum. Sorting at home can be iffy, since consumers don't always know what's recyclable and what's not in their area, and some plastic types like bioplastics aren't easily discernible, or recyclable at all. This keeps recycling rates in many areas low. In Japan, only two types of plastics are currently recycled, with the rest getting incinerated with other trash. It's an unfortunate waste of a potential raw material. But a new robot with laser vision could change that for the better.

Using five laser beams that can detect different types of plastics, this sorting robot puts plastics into six different piles, depending on their content. The robot uses photonics sensing technology developed by IDEC Co., LTD. and PARC, along with robot technology of Mitsubishi Electric Engineering (MEE) Co., LTD.

Right now, Japan recycles only PET and PS, but many more types of plastics are used. The robot could be a big emissions-saver by opening up opportunities for further plastics recycling.

The group, IDEC, MEE and Osaka University are working on a pilot program to test the machine, and if it pans out, smaller versions of the robot could go on the market for around $55,300 (five million yen), according to the Telegraph. With a price that high for a piece of equipment - and we aren't sure how fast it works considering it uses just one sorting arm - it could mean a slow start to more advanced plastics recycling in Japan - but any start at all is better than none.

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Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Electronics | Plastics | Recycling

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