To achieve the ambitious goals for recycling rates set by EU strategic documents, the processing of non-hazardous solid waste needs to be significantly improved. While majority of process industries are successfully implementing different digitalization solutions in order to optimize the processes in terms of efficiency and quality, these present a great and unused potential of improvement for waste processing. Real-time material flow monitoring for decision-informing is very rare, keeping the process fairly rigid and sub-optimal both in horizontal (across the entire value chain) and vertical (within facility) directions.
The current state-of-the art in process automation and control in waste processing is represented by PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) and SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), which are powerful tools for automation, but lack in ability to easily provide informative and advanced analytics. Additional information on the waste flow is available directly on sensor-based sorters, but this is limited to a single point in the process. In light of Industry 4.0 paradigm, a further step in data gathering and utilization will maximize efficiency of current technological processes, give insight into major bottlenecks and give rise to new business models stemming from the data utilization.
A Slovenian high-tech start-up with expertise in optical system design, AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms and data analysis, developed a complete monitoring system for waste sorting process with configurable detectors and data analysis platform.
The detection system currently consists of visible light and a 3D camera and can be extended upon request by a NIR (Near-Infrared) multispectral camera. Data-fusion of several detectors allows improved performance of AI algorithms for material composition.
Detectors and control electronics are fitted in a 400x500x180 mm box that is mounted on top of conveyor belt. A custom, energy-efficient LED illumination is supplied according to belt width and speed at the monitoring locations.
Features like belt load, waste composition, moisture and presence of contaminants are extracted in real-time and populate the data-base. Relevant production performance metrics are calculated using recorded process parameters and additional measurements.
Selected measurements and analysis results are displayed in an interactive web-based platform, where alarms are set for the case of abnormal process status. Secured login allows different user-profiles to access various real-time information via the dashboard or historical data via pre-configured or customized reports.
The most common usage cases of the monitoring system are assessment of process performance upon varying feeding material, optimization of process parameters with real-time feedback to derive different process recipes and quality assurance of sorted material to reach buyers requirements.
The system reveals previously in- or hardly accessible process information in real-time, while historical data are easily available for detailed analysis. Process optimization, dynamic maintenance scheduling and easier return-of-investment assessment that such data allow will bring immediate benefits like increased throughput, reduced down-time and minimized risk.
The company is looking for a strategic partner for a comm. agreement with technical assistance. The complete information (data monitoring, processing and interface) system will be installed in a partner’s waste sorting facility at optimal locations to extract partner’s information of business significance defined at the beginning of cooperation. The cooperation will focus on business objectives and production goals which will be directed to maximizing profit and reducing cost and risk. Partner’s active involvement with internal process know-how is crucial for definition of the abovementioned metrics. A case-study (whitepaper) with process performance analysis will be pu