The robots are coming!

AMP Robotics is revolutionising the waste processing industry by using robots for recycling – this age-old problem now has a new solution!

Innovatively designed to bolster efficiency and reduce the cost of recycling, AMP Robotics is making strides in providing next-generation robotics for recycling. With the acronym, “AMP” meaning Autonomous Manipulation and Perception, this forward-thinking organisation has created a scalable robotic system that radically decreases the cost of recycling and supports ‘smarter’ recycling.

There are three products in this robot-powered suite of solutions:

AMP Neuron (Analytics) – the software transforms material on the recycling lines into pertinent data using computer vision to distinguish detailed features in the same way as the human eye. It perceives unique material in non-singulated waste and swiftly recognises consumer product branding and any changes associated with it. It monitors the entire material stream, efficiently tracking objects as they move between pre-sort lines through the waste recycling facility.

AMP Cortex (Robotic sorting) – this robotic component slices the costs of recyclable sorting by over 50 per cent that results in a 12- to 18-month payback. How? By increasing throughput and lowering labour interventions – which is usually, after shipping costs, a waste recycling plant’s highest operating line item.

AMP also offers a fully-hosted solution that fits on to pre-existing recycling lines without the expensive retrofitting. What’s more, AMP robotics will never miss a day’s work, ever! But human safety has also been carefully considered and these recycling robots can reduce contamination levels and increase all-around employee safety; specifically by improving the safety of the sorting lines.

Says the founder of Boulder-based AMP Robotics, Matanya Horowitz, “there’s a difference between building a robot and building an intelligent robot.” And, at 60 picks per minute, 50% sorting cost reduction, 12-month payback period and zero retrofitting costs, this statement certainly rings true. The only thing missing of course is a brain to go with that brawn. Horowitz, who holds a PhD from California Institute of Technoology, reiterates the need for his robotics explaining that: “Our perspective on the problem is that the technology has been around for at least 10 years, maybe for as long as 15 years. What hasn’t been there is the intelligence to see a pile of garbage and actually see what’s there, tell the difference between different clear plastic and colored plastic, or the difference between types of metal.”

Artificial Intelligence at its best

AMP’s Cortex is continually learning to recognise various food and beverage cartons that allow the system to surpass accuracy levels of its existing robotic sorting peers. What’s more is that this newly-acquired knowledge is easily transferrable to other Mechatronics, Industrial Robotics(MRFs) for even further identification and refinement.

The AMP Cortex, with its specially-designed grips to pick up and separate waste, has wide spread positive implications for the waste recycling industry as it can be adapted to other materials as well. It sorts at super-human speeds diverting material for further processing – material that could otherwise be dumped at landfills.

The system has a large memory capacity, and can be taught to handle new materials. This is a long-term solution for effectively recycling the ever-growing number of different packaging materials and formats in the recycling stream. Cortex also has the potential to learn how to identify and pick out contaminants, helping to improve one of the biggest issues the recycling industry is facing.

Horowitz proudly attests to the artificial intelligence of its robotics citing that: “Unlike a lot of equipment manufacturers, we use a learning system to show the robot what these different things look like.” But how smart is this bot really? Several tests have proved that it could differentiate between opaque and shiny plastic and identify logos such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

And, it seems the world is sitting up and taking note – AMP Robotics won a pitch contest at the 2015 Resource Recycling Conference in Indianapolis, with the judging panel ranging across the spectrum of Artificial Intelligence  and recycling experts in the industry.

It appears AMP Robotics might just be the next line of bots to close the gaps in the overburdened waste recycling labour market.

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