ZenRobotics: The Garbage Sorting Robot Explored

Sorting garbage at the collection center is a labor-intensive process, and if done manually, it might result in waste being incorrectly categorized.

ZenRobotics, a Finnish company based out of Helsinki, aims to change that with its robots.

Their Recycler system that includes the Heavy Picker is an innovation in a field that’s practically untouched by AI-powered robots.

After reading this article, you’ll know how these products work and why I think they’re at the forefront of environment-friendly robotics.

ZenRobotics’ Heavy Picker and Recycler allow waste management facilities to be more efficient when separating waste, cutting down on manpower costs while increasing efficiency thanks to its AI ZenBrain.

Read more to find out what the Heavy Picker does and how it fits into ZenRobotics’ Recycler system.

ZenRobotics and their Mission

ZenRobotics was founded in 2007 with a single mission: to revolutionize how we deal with waste by using the latest developments in robotics and artificial intelligence.

The company has developed its own AI software and robots which are marketed to their customers, including government agencies, private recycling plants, and more.

Recycling used to be manual labor-intensive and required quite a lot of manpower to sustain efficiency.

ZenRobotics seeks to match and even exceed that efficiency with less manpower and economic costs.

They also aim to increase the purity and efficiency of the recycled raw materials with their robots and AI.

Research and product development are done in-house, meaning ZenRobotics can develop robots that fit their core ethos and preserve standards.

What Can Heavy Picker Do?

The Heavy Picker is ZenRobotics’ highest weight-class of robot arms that can pick and separate waste and is a part of their Recycler system.

With the help of multiple heavy-duty arms and a robust AI system, the Heavy Picker can separate any heavy waste with a fraction of the effort we had to put in earlier.

Sorting is done unmanned and easy to monitor, which adds to the Heavy Picker’s contribution to increasing the accuracy and profitability of your waste collection operation.

With a max per object weight of 30 kilograms (66 lbs), you’ll be able to perform up to 6000 picks per hour if you have three of these arms.

You get the leeway to tone down your pre-sorting and pre-shredding operations with excavators because the Heavy Picker can do most of the work required.

The control that the Heavy Picker’s AI gives you lets you prioritize the type of material you separate so that your business can maximize profits.

How Does Heavy Picker Work?

The brain of the Heavy Picker system is the in-house developed AI system called ZenBrain.

ZenBrain creates a 3D environment where the Picker arms can move around, pick the most valuable items, and avoid piles of them that you don’t need.

The sensor suite of the Heavy Picker includes:

  • A high-resolution RGB camera.
  • A metal imaging sensor.
  • A sensor for the visual light spectrum.
  • A sensor system to build the 3D environment.

All these sensors work in tandem with the AI brain and decide what to pick and what to avoid.

Since most of these decisions are automated, there only needs to be occasional oversight to check if everything is in order, and the ZenBrain will take care of the rest.

The sensor suite also controls the rate of garbage being fed to the robots so that you’ll have total control of how fast your waste separation is being done. 

Technology that’s been invested in Heavy Picker

The Heavy Pickers uses ZenRobotic’s own ZenBrain AI system to manage waste separation. 

The longer the AI can learn how your operation works, the more efficient it can become.

It tracks how fast and how much you feed the system at any given time and the separated output of the system.

ZenBrain uses this data, along with real-time information from its well-designed sensor suite, to control your waste picking operation to maximize its own efficiency.

Multiple Heavy Picker Units working in tandem has been shown to increase the overall output of a waste management plan, thanks to the ZenBrain system.

Advantages of the ZenRobotics Recycler

One of the greatest advantages that a ZenRobotics Recycler unit can bring to your business is the reduction of the manpower costs usually attributed to waste separation.

The mistakes in separation that can happen when doing this manually can be avoided if a well-trained AI is doing it for you.

The only thing you have to do with the recycler is to load its conveyor belt end, and the machine will sort the waste into the different varieties you ask it to, like wood, metal, stone, and more.

You would no longer need to assemble a new recycling system piece by piece either; ZenRobotics sells their recycling plants as a single unit.

Everything you’ll need for such a system, including conveyors and feed bunkers, are included in the solution.

Another advantage is that the longer you run the ZenRobotics Recycler system, the better the ZenBrain AI can work.

As the AI has access to more data, it can formulate strategies that minimize waste and maximize picking and sorting efficiency.

Disadvantages of the ZenRobotics Recycler

There are a few places where the Recycler comes up short: you still need something like an excavator to move all of the separated waste into their own zones.

All of the equipment in the Recycler needs a medium-sized warehouse, coming to about 6.12 m x 13.7 m (20 ft x 45 ft), and it isn’t suitable for smaller buildings.

The robot arms might not be able to lift a lot of weight, nothing more than 30 kg (66 lbs), so if you find yourself dealing with heavier objects, this recycler isn’t something you’ll want.

Impact of ZenRobotics Recycler

ZenRobotics’ clients include commercial, industrial, construction, and demolition waste fractioning companies, and the impact that ZenRobotics’ has brought to the environment is nothing worth scoffing at.

They’ve managed to convert demolished and potentially wasted materials into usable raw materials that builders can use for other projects. 

They separate the impurities from the potential good quality raw material and fraction both off into their respective zones.

The well-engineered robots also mean that the system bought the overall cost of maintaining an entire recycling plant down.

Since the technology is also pretty decentralized, it has bought down the cost of transporting everything to remote locations.

These advances in the areas that are a supplement to waste separation have lessened the impact of waste separation on the environment and increased the recyclability of materials that were never considered good enough to be recycled.

What’s next for ZenRobotics

ZenRobotics has a pretty large market share in Europe, where the market is focused more on recycling and landfill diversion. 

In contrast, in North America, the market leans more towards profitability and cost-efficiency.

ZenRobotics hopes to rise to this challenge that the North American market would have in store for them in the future.

As the world reels from a crisis that has affected manpower everywhere, they see great prospects in the market.

With AI-powered robots becoming mainstream, the most probable avenue where there’s a lot of growth is the service sector.

If ZenRobotics plays their cards right, I see them taking the lion’s share of the market in just a few years.

Automating The Garbage Disposal Process

The robots that we saw from ZenRobotics is just the tip of the iceberg.

Garbage sorting is just one of the aspects of waste collection and recycling, and the most common part of it that we see everyday is the trash collection.

Robots can be used in this area as well and if designed properly, it can bring down the crew for a garbage truck to just the driver.

After the trash reaches the collection points, more robots can load this into bigger trucks that take this waste to a plant that has ZenRobotics’ systems.

We can also have a robot that can take the segmented waste and separate it into their own piles when it comes sorted out of the ZenRobotics system.

There is a lot of potential to add robots to the entire chain of garbage collection and disposal, just like we saw before.

As robots become cheaper and mainstream, the possibility of entire processes that involved intensive man hours would probably be shortened.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can robots help with recycling?

Robots armed with cameras and sensors can help recycling plants segregate waste into different classes.

This is the most popular application of robots in recycling, and the ZenRobotics Heavy Picker is an example of that.

How are robots helping us with the environment?

Besides using AI-powered robots to sort and deal with waste, robots allow us to monitor sectors of high greenhouse gas emissions remotely and even clean up oil spills out in the sea.

How can robots reduce pollution?

As robots enter industries’ production and recycling phases, the loss of efficiency that comes with manual labor can almost be completely avoided.

Since the machines run in preprogrammed cycles without tiring for as long as you want, you’ll be able to run your equipment cleaner and more efficiently.