23 July 2020 by Steve Eminton

NRT launches colour-based optical sorter with AI

American-based sorting equipment business, NRT has unveiled the development of a recyclables sorting machine which can use what it describes as an “additional layer of intelligence”.

Using the Max-Ai process, NRT – Tennessee-headquartered National Recovery Technologies – says that it has successfully integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into the company’s established ‘ColorPlus sorter’.

The additional layer of intelligence is said “to create new sorting capabilities by combining the ColorPlus sorter’s high volume and high confidence capabilities with Max’s person-like identification decisions”.

Scan sensor

The ColorPlus sorter employs a high-resolution RGB colour line-scan sensor to identify and sort recyclables by colour. Max-AI technology employs a camera and deep-learning based AI to identify recyclables similar to the way a person does, the company explained.

Max-AI technology, launched by NRT parent company Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) in 2017, is already at work in more than 100 installations, which according to BHS makes it recycling’s leading AI offering. While most of these installations use the technology in collaboration with robotic sorters, the Max-AI VIS (Visual Identification System) is also installed as stand-alone equipment and has already been integrated into the NRT SpydIR with Max-AI.

Above: video of the NRT Colour Plus with AI

‘Game changer’

“From the beginning we realized Max was a game changer, not just for robotic sorters, but really for the industry on a system-wide level,” said BHS CEO Steve Miller.

“Cardboard isn’t always brown and a clear PET container isn’t always desired”

Steve Miller, BHS chief executive

“This is another step forward as we continue to integrate Max into more of our equipment and intelligent system controls. NRT optical sorters are the best in the world at identifying material at very high confidence levels by colour or material composition, but sometimes the most effective sort requires the type of characterisation that a person can make – that’s where Max comes in.

“Cardboard isn’t always brown and a clear PET container isn’t always desired in the end product. The ColorPlus with Max-AI is going to solve a lot of sorting challenges for our customers and we are thrilled to introduce it to them,” Mr Miller concluded.

European plant

The first ColorPlus with Max-AI has been installed in a European paper recycling facility to purify the fibre stream by removing non-paper fibre, said BHS. In this case, Max-AI technology identifies material by type (ex., pizza box, cereal box, OCC, craft board, book, etc.). The ColorPlus™ technology is tuned to aggressively detect brown fibre. The combination of proven colour detection and the added layer of AI “ensures the ultimate removal of non-spec fibre. The technology has the flexibility to change what material types are targeted, allowing the customer to adjust along with market and material fluctuations.”

More information
Bulk Handling Systems (BHS)

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