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BHS’s recycling robot is coming to help save the planet


We throw away far too much waste and most of it goes to landfill, but AI and robotics are increasingly powerful tools we can use to help us recycle more of it.


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I track hundreds of exponential technologies and thousands of innovations across sectors and geographies and still feel that one sector is massively under represented when it comes to all these fields. I am, of course, talking about the sustainability and recycling, and even though I recently showed off Alphabet’s revolutionary self-learning general purpose robots who started their careers learning to sort trash it’s nice to finally see the unveiling of a commercial robotic recycling system that can automate and dramatically speed up the rate of materials recycling – something the world needs as we continue to generate huge volumes of polluting trash.


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Using the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Vision and robotics technology this week Canadian company Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) launched their Max-AI AQC-C, which is a recycling sorting solution comprised of the Max-AI VIS (Visual Identification System) and at least one collaborative robot, or CoBot.


Robots are recycling heroes too …


CoBots, like the ones Ford recently deployed onto their production lines that can now also feel pain to help improve safety, are designed to work safely alongside people on the line, which in this case means that the AQC-C can be quickly and easily installed into existing Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), the company says. Or recycling centers to you and I.

The AQC-C itself can be installed in sort cabins, on narrow walkways and in other tight locations. It is also scalable – up to four robotic sorters can be added behind each Max-VIS system, BHS says. Each sorter can sort up to 40 picks per minute and handle up to three different material types although as we continue to see advances in both AI and robotics both these statistics will increase quickly in time letting the machine sort even greater quantities of trash.


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“The AQC-1 and AQC-2 are fantastic solutions in the right system, but in our business, footprint and installation modifications are always a major factor,” BHS Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rich Reardon says. “The AQC-C is the perfect complement to our Max-AI family of sorters; it’s a fast and easy installation and can work essentially any place a manual sorter can. Unlike a manual sorter, the AQC-C won’t get tired, sick, injured or no-show – and it will sort all day without a break. The flexibility is tremendous. Customers are able to add one, two, three or four units per VIS and adapt with their processing needs. We’re really excited about our newest Max offering and can’t wait to show it off at WasteExpo.”


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Max-AI VIS is a standalone piece of equipment used to analyse and report material composition data to operators. The Max-AI product line includes VIS in its standard design with all equipment, rather than incorporated into the equipment structure. This makes possible the installation of VIS independent from a robotic or optical sorter, which the company says benefits Max-AI customers in several ways. The neural network AI is trained for each installation, which takes place after VIS gathers data from the material stream. When VIS is installed beforehand, the robotic or optical sorters can be installed when the AI is trained and optimised. It also allows for detailed material composition data to verify that either the purchased equipment is the correct solution or that a modification should be made. Finally, a standard VIS design provides the future flexibility to add equipment to VIS units or move equipment as processing needs change.

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