19 April 2017 by Elizabeth Slow

BHS unveils robot sorting system for MRFs

American equipment supplier BHS has unveiled a sorting system using a robot known as “Max”, which can visualise different types of recyclables and sort them out.

The company – Bulk Handling Systems – has announced the installation of Max-AI Technology, an artificial intelligence system which identifies recyclables and other items for recovery, at a materials recycling facility in Sun Valley, California.

The BHS robotic vision system is within this housing

And, the company has revealed that “the UK is on the priority list” for the technology at MRFs which are already using BHS equipment.

Wendy Wiedijk, sales officer at BHS Europe, said: “The company is really excited by the new technology and we are looking forward to seeing it introduced at facilities in Europe.”

According to Thomas Brooks, BHS director of technology development, this type of technology was not possible until now.

Mr Brooks said: “Recent advances in computer processing capabilities have enabled us to develop this groundbreaking machine learning platform. Max is more than just a robotic sorter. Max-AI technology will soon become the active brain of our MRFs, controlling various robotic, optical, and other sorting equipment, providing real-time material composition analysis, and making autonomous decisions.”

Vision system

Max-AI uses multi-layered neutral networks and a vision system to locate and identify objects. The technology is hoped to drive improvements in Material Recovery Facility (MRF) design, operational efficiency, recovery, system optimization, and maintenance.

The first available machine utilising Max-AI technology is an Autonomous Quality Control (QC) unit that sorts container streams following optical sorting. The robotic sorter uses its vision system to see the material, identify each item, and a robot to pick targeted items.

BHS said that the system is able to make multiple sorting decisions autonomously, such as separating various materials such as thermoform trays, aluminium, and fibre while removing residue from a stream of PET bottles, at rates ‘exceeding human capabilities’.

California

The first commercial Autonomous QC unit is in operation at a MRF in Sun Valley, California. The Max-AI robotic sorters will work alongside the company’s existing NRT optical sorters to provide a fully autonomous PET sorting solution.

BHS said that Max is central to its plan to bring autonomous optimisation to MRFs over the coming years, to increase performance and profitability.

Roy Miller, vice present of engineering at BHS added: “For me, this is the culmination of decades of technological development in recycling. Operating costs will go down while uptime, throughput, recovery and purity will all increase, leading to significant economic benefits for our customers and environmental gains for stakeholders everywhere. This is an exciting time indeed.”

The video below (on YouTube) shows the sorting system in operation.

 


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