Currently, about 100 percent of construction waste ends up in landfills, although much of it could be recycled or reused. A Finnish robotics company called ZenRobotics wants to change that. It has created a robot to sort through construction waste and find recyclable material and deposit it in appropriate bins.
The robot is essentially an arm with a gripper on the end that's connected to a computer that provides metal detection, weight measurements, 3-D scanning, tactile feedback and spectrometer analysis to identify and sort the materials. The robot is stationed by a conveyor belt where the materials are loaded. As the material goes by, the robot picks it up, analyzes it and if the robot identifies the type, places it in the appropriate nearby bin. If material isn't recognized, it keeps traveling on the belt and is deemed trash.
So far, the robot can correctly identify about half of the material it goes through, but there is huge potential for improvement as new measuring technology becomes available.
The robot is a breakthrough for both recycling and robotics because before now, most robots have been limited to basic, repetitive tasks, but this new robot is being asked to analyze and recognize materials and learn as it goes.