ECOPICK, the smart robot created to transform the recycling industry

by | Jun 8, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, Deep learning, innovation, Machine Vision, Robotics | 0 comments

The need to urgently reform the recycling industry by extracting greater value from waste is increasingly clear. ECOPICK by PICVISA has been designed as an innovative response, the first product from our Robotics business unit built to enhance efficiency and quality in the classification and sorting of waste in recycling plants.

ECOPICK scans different materials, identifies them among all the waste and separates them for recycling and subsequent valorisation. Its implementation in recycling plants enables the waste treatment procedure to be automated without needing human intervention, releasing workers from routine and dangerous tasks.


Artificial Intelligence enables more and better recycling

The sharp drop in virgin plastic prices and the increased cost of recycling contrasts with the challenge imposed by EU law to recycle more and better.

AI, Artificial Vision and robot are helping to transform the recycling industry. Not only can intelligent robotics help to speed up recoverable waste classification, it can also significantly improve precision in terms of identifying different types of plastics and other materials. ECOPICK is designed to separate recoverable materials, but PICVISA has also developed intelligent robotics solutions for quality control in the fraction of aluminium in packaging and urban solid waste (USW), for instance.


Revolutionary combo: Artificial Intelligence and Vision, and Robotics

Deploying an Artificial Vision system, ECOPICK robot captures information through sensors that capture images analysed in real time through deep learning algorithms able to understand the context and take decisions to adapt to them.

Material detection is done using a visible imaging spectrometer (VIS) and, optionally, near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR). It also includes the option of a remote connection for system updates and streamlining, expanding the library of objects it recognises and enhancing precision over time.

The robot developed for the recycling industry is trained to detect the shapes, colours and textures, and later, learns with human supervision to separate different waste, with the subsequent improvement in the quality of the material recovered.

ECOPICK has a fully flexible robotic arm that can adjust its gripping system based on the type of object collected. It is equipped with a special suction cup that adapts to the type of material, configured to use suction to separate different materials (packaging, drugs, metals, film, textiles, etc.).


What benefits does ECOPICK provide recycling plants?

ECOPICK can provide solutions for different types of plants to boost efficiency, productivity and security. Its use can guarantee return of investment in under 3 years. Installation is done in four phases: commissioning, dataset checks, performance testing and guarantee table checks. Our customers also have access to our Test Centre, where we conduct all types of industrial and urban waste recycling tests on an industrial scale.

The benefits of adding an ECOPICK robot are unquestionable:

  1. It boosts productivity and security, avoiding absenteeism and accidents. The robot performs 24/7. It can select and classify waste even better and faster than humans, with smaller margin of error, and enables manual pickers to be positioned in lower-risk roles with greater added value.
  2. It increases profitability and enhances recoverable material quality. Thanks to data analysis, the robot can make online adjustments and continuously streamline sorting at the end of the line, reducing the amount of unsuitable material that reaches the end of the process. It also provides real time access to statistics on classified materials. With the data the equipment generates, the plant control system can be informed and automatically adjust the flow.
  3. The robot that will transform recycling industry is adaptable to different applications. It can perform classification tasks, recognising and separating recoverable material (PET bottles, tetra brik, paper/cardboard, glass, etc.) from hazardous waste (aerosols, batteries, injectables, etc.), and can also carry out quality control tasks, focusing on purifying the final product, discarding unsuitable or inadequate material (aluminium cans vs. other metals, for example).


More benefits:

  1. It has a plug and play service. A technical team leaves the robotics solution running from day one and provides online after-sales follow-up, and if necessary, on-site.
  2. It can be applied in any type of industry and installation, either existing or newly created.
  3. It boosts the circular economy. The benefit of automating a recycling plant with intelligent robots like ECOPICK is not just financial; we can also measure it in terms of environmental impact. According to the available data, to produce a kilogram of virgin plastic, 3.5 kg of CO2 is released into the atmosphere, whereas for each kilogram of plastic made with recycled material, 1.7 kg of CO2 is emitted. Looking at it in another way, for each tonne of plastic recycled with ECOPICK, we save 1.8 tonnes of CO2. If an ECOPICK unit recovers 200 tonnes of recoverable material to convert it into recycled plastic, we would be emitting 360 tonnes less CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, the saving would be much greater because in this calculation, we’re not including the emissions saving that these 200 tonnes would release if they ended up in a landfill.


Companies that trust ECOPICK

AI paves the way for achieving more consistent detection rates, enhancing material purity and cutting costs; it also provides plants with loads of data. Therefore, it’s easy to see how plants that implement this type of technology will increasingly boost their competitiveness in an ever-more demanding market.

Some companies have already placed their trust in ECOPICK. These include Ferrovial, having installed a robotics solution in one of its recycling plants to separate plastics and cans from other waste; Biotran, which uses it to do the same with pharmaceutical waste; and FCC Ecomesa for recovering recyclables in planar flows.

If you want all the technical product information, click here to download the ECOPICK leaflet.


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