How robots powered by artificial intelligence are helping one recycler boost productivity

Finland-based waste management and environmental services company Kuljetusrinki has upgraded its operations with a fully automated sorting system from ZenRobotics.

ZenRobotics Heavy Picker robotic arm sorting Wood Waste Kuljetusrinki's new Heavy Picker robotic arms incorporate material recognition systems powered by artificial intelligence. (PHOTO: ZenRobotics)

The company, which handles waste from the construction and manufacturing sectors and has been carbon-neutral since 2021, invested in a new sorting station for the final sorting phase at its facility in Tattarisuo, Helsinki.

The station is equipped with three of ZenRobotics’ Heavy Picker robotic arms with integrated recognition systems, that are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

These can more accurately identify and sort materials, including wood, inert rigid Plastics, and ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals, at a significantly faster rate than humans.

Markus Närhi, CEO at Kuljetusrinki, said: “Before embracing ZenRobotics Heavy Picker robots, our waste handling processes relied heavily on manual labour alongside appropriate machinery.

“However, this approach had limitations - it was slower, less precise, and resulted in suboptimal sorting outcomes. We turned to ZenRobotics for a technological upgrade to enhance our operations.”

Capable of handling objects of varying sizes and that weigh up to 40 kg, the robots can each pick up a maximum of 6,900 pieces of material per hour and, as part of the fully-automated sorting station, can work 24-hours-a-day, completely unmanned. 

Two ZenRobotics Heavy Picker Robotic Arms sorting Wood and Stone The robots can sort a range of materials, including wood, stone, plastic and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. (PHOTO: ZenRobotics)

According to ZenRobotics, the system also contributes to environmental sustainability, as its accuracy and speed enables Kuljetusrinki to divert more material away from incineration, which subsequently increases the amount it sends for recycling and reuse.

Markus said: “We are excited about how ZenRobotics robots can identify the different materials, compared to the human eye—this a significant step up for us. This accuracy, along with the speed at which it can sort out the most valuable materials are all benefits we are seeing from the implementation of this technology at our site.

“The entire process of building a waste material recovery facility with ZenRobotics has been inspiring, and we look forward to continued collaboration together as this technology evolves.”

Three ZenRobotics Heavy Pickers installed at Kuljetusrinki site The robotic arms are installed inside safety cafes at the Kuljetusrinki site, to help improve worker safety. (PHOTO: ZenRobotics)

ZenRobotics added that not only does the turnkey system boost productivity, but it also improves site safety as human workers are “protected from harsh environments” and the robotic arms are enclosed in protective cages to prevent workers from any inadvertent physical contact.

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