Systematic, eco-innovative approaches for the circular economy: large-scale demonstration projects using robotics in recycling
Table of contents
Abstract……………………………………………………………………………... P 2
Introduction…………………………………………………………………………. P 2
Objectives………………………………………………………………………….... P 4
Concept……………………………………………………………………………... P 5
Methodology………………………………………………………………………… P 5
Ambition…………………………………………………………………………….. P 6
Relation to work program……………………………………………………………. P 6
Measures to maximize impact……………………………………………………….. P 8
Data management plan………………………………………………………………. P 8
Communication strategy…………………………………………………………….. P 9
Commercialization strategy…………………………………………………………. P 9
Work packages………………………………………………………………………. P10
Additional consortium……………………………………………………………….. P11
The objective of the following proposal is to set up two research premises that enable research institutes whom are specialized in robotics to participate in developing robotics and vision software algorithms for the recycling conveyor belt recycling sorting industry. Making use of the premises to develop sorting solutions that are competitive with todays conveyor recycling air blow ejection separation technologies. The developed solutions would enable grabbing and allocating municipal waste items per category and target upcycling waste by reprocessing sorted shredded plastic and metal content only with its original produced content. The assumptions is that current air blow ejection separation technologies can be outcompeted by inverse robotics production systems.
The developed solutions are intended to be prepared in such a way that they can be directly commercialized in the European recycling industry. Commercialization would be achieved, both directly through the consortium leader’s complementary assets and additionally through new robotized waste treatment plant equity investment installations. New commercial activities arising from developed solutions during the consortium would be required to pay a royalty the for research institutes successfully developed software algorithms.
The proposal herein intends to establish a pilot project that includes two circular conveyor belts with multiple robotics, vision and collection instruments. The consortium consists of robotics universities and institutes that are granted access to from a distance to develop the applicable robotics software solutions for conveyor belt waste processing centres.
The belts are circular for the purpose of building the software algorithms, enabling circulation of conveyor belt waste for as long and until all the waste on the belt has been allocated to its originally produced category.
Circular belts enable the research institutes to continuously circulate the municipal and shredded waste to test individually developed software algorithms for grabbing, identifying and allocating the contents on the belt, until the right applications have been built. When the applications are built, a larger, straight, high speed robotics municipal waste sorting conveyor belt could be constructed. Alternatively, circular belts with slower speeds could be constructed to limit the required robotics capital investment.
Initially the proposed recycling system will place an emphasis on simpler higher quality slower conveyor belt recycling technologies, where robotic arms and delta robotics systems can be used to test new codes that grab and allocate the circling municipal or shredded waste.
The proposed project intends to push EU research in relatively unexplored robotics research areas that enables the development of implementable software solutions for future recycling industries. The research grounds provided for EU research institutions, should enable the participating EU research institutes to increase their experience and augment their skill level in robotics programming and thereby increase the potential solutions they can provide in future recycling industry applications and similar solutions in future robotics industries.
The learning curve of the project should enable the development of software and hardware solutions that match the competitiveness of the air blow optical sorting technologies available on the market today. The industry participants will gain entry into supplying differentiated automated solutions for improved methods to recycle municipal waste, shredded electronic waste and shredded plastic waste.
If the research project creates successful results, it will be possible to offer investors new capital investment opportunities in new sorting technologies. The new technologies would complete with larger existing conveyor air blow waste processing centres that re-generate the re-industrialization of new raw material supply chains from obsolete products.
Conveyor belt one
The purpose of conveyor belt one, is to develop vision technologies and software algorithms that can grab items out of non treated municipal waste.
conveyor belt contents
The contents can arise from standard bin bags, potentially using contents from a bin bag shredder or simply placing contents from mixed recycling waste without food content on the belt.
Once the municipal waste solution is complete a more complex task of sorting pressed municipal can potentially be investigated for sorting.
The intent is to place several models of robotics arm, brands, software packages and varying grabber models on the sorting line.
Conveyor belt two
The purpose of line two is develop sorting solutions for shredded waste, with a high focus on sorting plastic for upcycled raw materials production.
On the delta robotics conveyor belt an emphasis is placed on sorting highly valuable shredded electronic waste, separating the valuable plastics and metals.
Once the first electronic shredded waste solution has been developed, for additional research knowhow building on belt two; the belt can be loaded with shredded plastic household waste for sorting.
The belt would be equipped with an array of 10 delta robotics with multiple grabber systems such as air suction systems and micro grabbers.
The main objectives of the current proposal are:
• to develop two circular belts with robotics, vision and collection equipment
• to test their prepared written software algorithmic codes that visualize and sort municipal or shredded electronic waste.
• To develop vision technologies that can accurately identify items on the conveyor belt and accurately pass signals onto the robotics arms.
• To develop accurate interpretation, grabbing and deposition programming solutions.
• To integrate an entire code where AI algorithms enable the robotics systems to autonomously interpret, grab and allocate the programmed content in the collection container aside.
Once all the objectives are achieved; entire solution will be provided to various existing sorting centres and investors. The last objective involves commercializing the developed applications through existing complementary assets and commercialization of franchise investment project plants in smart cities.
Successful completion for objectives one to four will be measured by how fast and how accurate the robotics systems on the circular belt can allocate each type of waste with to its produced content. Its commerciality will depend on how competitive the developed solution will be compared to optical and manual sorting solutions provided on the market today.
The concept of the research grounds is to increase the integration of robotics systems in municipal waste and electronic waste sorting plants to ‘upcycle waste’ with a particular focus on separating varying types of plastics only with its original produced content.
The robotics code and software building will consist of a collaborative innovation activity with a multitude of robotics institutes working together in an open manner to rapidly build the applications. The assumptions are that current air blow ejection separation technologies can be outcompeted by inverse robotics production systems. Additional assumptions are that robotized recycling plants can attract considerable local support and local equity investment. The project will intend to integrate the discipline of robotics with recycling in smart cities that can provide a value added tax return for each recycled item to stimulate local private investment returns. Once the local recycling inverse robotized assembly plants are set up, it will contribute to local production of raw materials and local returns on investment.
The projects stage is currently going from concept to building a learning curve plant, thereby increasing competition with optical sorting through integrating robotics in the recycling industry.
The research facilities end objective is to increase recycling rates, through allocating private investment capital in assets developed during the research project. The improved robotized conveyor belt recycling systems can aid in reindustrializing EU’s production of raw materials.
Activity one consists of the construction of the research plant with robotics, conveyor belt, vision systems, computer systems, operating software, remote access systems and collection systems, where the project will move from concept to laboratory.
Activity two will consist of providing remote access through programs such as teamviewer, where the participating research institutes will be allocated sessions, in which they can use programming to control robotics arms singularly. This will allow other participants to control other robotics arms at different conveyor belt speed during the day. In stage two of work package two, the focus will shift towards allocating the entire robotics line to an institutes control, where they can can enter their codes to control the whole robotics line with all robotics arms programmed simultaneously and autonomously. Sessions for controlling robotics arms or an entire line will be in the region of 3-hours during the day and 5-hour session after standard working hours.
Activity three consists of building an almost completely automated simulation plant with matching automated guided vehicle systems, that is prepared for market replication. This replicable plant will consist of an inverse conveyor assembly system that provides the entire solution from municipal waste to sorted shredded content per category of municipal waste.
Activity four is the commercialization of the replicable plant and coded solutions developed during the consortium project. With the consortium leader being an optical inspection supplier in the recycling industry, the consortium leader should be able to directly provide the new solutions to existing and new costumers brought in from its sales channels. The partners in the consortium with experience in waste recycling plant set up, will be required to set up the franchise systems to bring in waste, set up pre-established sales routes for the resulting raw materials, plant construction and system to manage day to day operations.
Activity five will consist of setting up franchise plants in smart cities with matching local value added tax returns for raw materials production and local equity investment schemes.
Our ambition is to establish a state of the art robotics research premises and sorting centres that provide inverse assembly services for remote municipal waste products. The project in addition intends to modernize existing municipal waste sorting centres with robotics solutions. The innovation potential for upcycling obsolete products through inverse assembly models is relative large, compared to the percentage of municipal waste that is incinerated. The project can in potential establish new circular consumption and production models that turn the routine municipal waste problem into an opportunity. The novel concept in this approach is building robotic systems in the recycling industry with ground breaking objectives for the inverse consumer disposal production systems described in work package five.
Some of the recycling industry leaders perceive an robotics system as too complex and expensive due outdated thought patterns with prior experiences in expensive robotic arms, high cost labour and possibilities in robotics capacity. Existing sorting services today are done manually through human labour or with high cost, high speed, complex conveyor belt systems that sort waste through a blow ejection system, blowing different categories of wastes in varying distances per category. In the optical air blow sorting technologies the varying distance is the only manner in how different types of waste can be separated.
Sorting waste by varying distances through blow technology might work for plastic bottles however as one can imagine this cannot work for separating tissues, papers, organic, and the huge multitude of variable items present municipal waste in various forms and shapes. The optical sorting system cannot use an air blow system to blow the multitude of tissue, carton, food, thin plastics, disposed electronics accurately in varying distances.
The huge complexity presented in sorted municipal waste is due to its variation of content, requiring several types of robotics and grabbers. A robotics system for sorting complex municipal waste can in potential can simpler, more consistent, durable, accurate with double verification reverse action system, and have a higher variability sorting potential.
The proposed collaboration with smart cities in work package five can bring new business models for waste collection services, supporting business organizational models and can provide new circular infrastructure investments models when value added taxes are returned upon recycling.
Relation to the work programme
The proposals ambition is to replace linear economic models with circular economic models by robotizing recycling plants. Including the redesign of the municipal waste supply streams to an eco innovation ‘best of practise’ model where hundred percent of municipal waste is recycled, turning a municipality problem into a local economic output opportunity.
At present a large component of municipal waste is landfilled, incinerated or exported, this comes at a loss for the quality of life of citizens in terms of air pollution, land pollution and export of valuable raw materials.
The project will maximize the participating research institutes ICT and logistics capabilities, enhancing their laboratory experience and thereby performance for industry application. Participating institutes will be able to apply their built or learnt automating skills in other EU industries; enabling the EU to stay wage competitive, through further robotizing other industries.
With the solutions developed by the participating institutes, new processing centre franchises would increase resource efficiency and supply high quality recycled raw materials for the EU’s manufacturing sector. The EPR reward for processing goods into circular products will cause in increase in business for demand local SME firms that support the supply chain with new local collaborative services in producing the sorting waste into circular content.
In the proposed extended producer responsibility model described in work package five, paid value added taxes are in part re-allocated to recyclers. The EPR measures if effective, could establish more sustainable consumption patterns where businesses pay and compete for collecting municipal waste, facilitating a broader transition to a circular economy. The application intends to combine technological, organizational, cultural and behavioural innovation into the circular value chain model.
Measures to maximise impact
The plan to exploit the project's results will be achieved through implementing the solutions in existing municipal waste processing centres and by replicating the pilot plant developed in work package three. Providing two investment options in larger higher capital investment straight conveyor belt technologies or lower capital investment in smaller circular slower conveyor belts.
The strategies are intended to be commercialized through the consortium leader’s complementary assets and through establishing new recycling plants funded through local resident equity investment strategies, offering the public franchise investments in robotized recycling plants. Recycling plants with ‘innovation deals’ should have an above average return on investment thereby in potential be able to attract larger amounts of private savings for new infrastructure investments.
The plants should deliver higher societal value than incineration plants do, creating positive public perception for possible robotics solutions. The plan for making the data found to the public will be achieved through presence at trade fairs advertisement in magazines, local or national newspapers and mailing by post equity investment opportunities in new plants. The costs for advertising should be covered by the budget, where sales articles indicate the replacement human arms by robotic arms
The impact of an increase in the number and efficiency of recycling plants will inevitably lead to increase in recycling rates, shifting the market from incineration to recycling.
Standard comparisons will be made with existing optimal sorting air blow ejection recycling technologies, in terms of cost, efficiency, accuracy, adaptability and complexity. The project should create software algorithms with robotics and vision systems that are remotely installable on conveyor belts contents for the identification and selection of municipal waste.
With participating research institutes being able to earn a revenue from successfully created results, it is intended that they can do this in competitive way, albeit it be in open collaborative competition, finding the best and most solutions fastest to build on each others findings however be rewarded for their own works.
The best institutes will receive most royalty and equity demonstrated by an analysis of shared results and voting from other participant institutes.
Data management plan
Upon completing the project, an analysis will be made on which institutes contributed most solutions and which institutes did most of the work, with each party making a report on what contributions they made and what contributions they found other participating institutes made. The consortium will also hire an expert who can analyse the posted codes on the login form to find which participants contributed most.
The solutions and findings developed by the research institutions during the research project should be shared with the consortium in an constant open dialogue on the private consortium forum login communications platform, so that the research institutes can build on each others findings.
The IPR developed during the project will indefinitely belong to the consortium, with royalties and equity in new projects paid to the research institutes that contributed most.
Upon finalizing commercial solutions those institutes having contributed most to solutions will be offered the highest royalty and most equity in new plants. The ownership of any IPR data developed during the project will belong to the consortium for which the contributing party will receive an equal royalty upon commercialization.
Those institutes that do not contribute findings or continuously work in the open data sharing after sessions will be removed from the consortium and participation. Research institutes will be funded per session when they participate through distant access and share their worked on solutions, they will be required to prepare works before accessing the system and sharing their works post session.
For consortiums group commercialization developed vision, robotics communication and robotics control algorithms to sort municipal waste in market relative fast manner will be patented.
The IPR will be made available for replicable plants organized by the consortium in which participants who contributed will be given an equity position according to their finding to a combined maximum of seven and a half percent equity ownership. Patented solutions licensed to industry leaders in the recycling industry will distribute a royalty payment to the research participated professors of up to seventy five percent of the licensing fees received, with the rights restricted by the consortium leader if an market position of twenty five percent can be maintained within a five year period. The consortium intends to exploits market opportunities arising from the results itself, through setting up replicable and franchising robotized recycling plants.
The research institutes will be given access to a restricted knowledge sharing platform where they can share and build knowledge on each others findings. Post sessions institutes should share their successful results on which other institutes can build. Participating research must demonstrate the continuous original feedback into their solutions.
The project will be formed in an open competition model, where institutes are intended to impress each other with their findings, as mentioned those institutes not contributing for some time will be removed from the open communications project, with their previous provided solutions counted towards their part of the royalty.
The more other institutes found they could build on an another institutes work and the better the shared works post sessions, the higher the royalty and equity position for that institute will be.
Institutes will be working in a closed communications system similar to forum with login, where the posts are only available to institutes working on the same targets in the work package. Work packages will be divided into vision systems, robotics control, combined vision - control and artificial intelligence line programming.
The research premises purpose is to enable the development of implementable concept assets during activities one, two and three. The research solutions from activity two are intended to be directly commercializable by the consortium leader’s sales channels and through the set up of new sales channels to existing sorting centres. During activity four the franchisee plant will be constructed in an predetermined franchise model where, where sales channels for the recycled raw materials will be established, incoming waste stream contracts organized and set guidelines for the day to day management of the plant are prepared. The franchise plant solutions will be reorganized during activities one to four and implemented during activity five. In order to provide an optimal return for allocated capital, an ‘innovation deal’ with smart cities will be proposed where one to five percent of paid value added taxes will be allocated towards the processing centre for recycling municipal waste products into circular products.
In activity four, a sales team will be hired where the solutions for robotics, vision and AI communication will be offered for sale to existing sorting centres. Upon sales, the contributed participants will receive a royalty for their implemented solutions.
A sales team will be set up per country to target sales at centres that manually sort municipal waste to be replaced by robotics and vision technologies with the according leasing models for the robotic arms.
In activity five a replicable franchise plant will be built with the help of an experienced consortium participant who has experience in setting up waste sorting plants. The replicable franchise plant should be prepared to be managed in the form of pre-set guidelines that optimizes the franchise return on investment and plant functioning.
Work package five will be in collaboration with smart cities, where the EPR ‘innovation deal’ is implemented for the municipal waste sorting centre. Smart cities should also provide guidance in setting up waste stream contracts to the sorting centres and grant the license for the location.
Prior to the set up of the waste sorting plant approximate equity returns on investments should be established where the local community is sent brochures with the opportunity of equity investing.
In the work plan five pre-identified smart cities indicated herein are incentivized to take up the innovation to increase their economic output, create new regional recycling opportunities, strengthen competitiveness of their recycling sector and contribute to recycling and climate targets. Through the implementation of the right ‘innovation deals’, infrastructure investments that provide the adequate return on investment can overcome regulatory bottlenecks when it comes to handling municipal waste.