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Innovative separaction method non-Ferrous metal waste from electric and electronic equipment WEEE based on multi and hyper spectral Identification

Final Report Summary - SORMEN (Innovative Separaction Method Non Ferrous Metal Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment WEEE based on Multi and Hyper spectral Identification)

This project develop a new technology for the separation of non-ferrous metal Waste from electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) based on multi- and hyper-spectral identification.

This new technology will overcome the shortcomings posed by current methods, which are unable to separate valuable materials very similar in colour, size or shape. The project will provide a reliable technology to automate scrap processing in the recycling sector for non-ferrous metals from WEEE which is nowadays essentially manual, labour intensive and time consuming.

The relevance of the project to the European Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is really outstanding. The level of automation and specialisation of SME recyclers is very low. Besides, WEEE is one of the most complex waste streams requiring management. This is due to the fact that Electric and electronic equipment (EEE) covers a wide variety of products ranging from mechanical devices such as hair dryers to highly integrated systems as computers and mobile phones. Non-ferrous metals, including precious metals, represent approximately 13 % of the total WEEE weight.

The recycling sector will benefit from the development of this new technology, since waste fractions of small size (10-50 mm) after shredding, magnetic, mechanical and densiometric sorting still contain significant quantities of non-ferrous metals (e.g. aluminium, copper, zinc, brass, and lead) and stainless steel which the current technology does not lend appropriate to identify and separate. As the price of recycled materials depends largely on purity, these fractions are currently sold at much lower price. This project will allow to sort those materials and in consequence to sell them individually at a higher price, increasing the added value of recycling process.

The final goal of the SORMEN project is to build a new technology machine able to separate non-ferrous metal waste fractions of small size from EEE based on multi- and hyperspectral identification.

The main innovations are as follows:
- a multi- and hyper-spectral identification device for recycling applications;
- a new separation method will be developed for distinguishing individual non-ferrous metals from a scrap of many different materials;
- an automatic machine with low maintenance for fractions between 10-50 mm;
- a machine able of processing around 1 tonnes / hour, at a market target price of around EUR 90 000.

The development of this new method will increase the value of recycled materials sold in the market and reduce recycling cost, thus improving overall SME economic profit. Additionally, it will contribute to reduce external costs, namely costs derived from destruction and land-filling, and complying with European directives.

The SORMEN project involves German, Belgian, Finnish and Spanish partners in a jointly effort to improve the recycling industry. The consortium of this project consists of five SMEs and two Research and technological development (RTD) performers. The involver contractors are two WEEE recycling companies (Indumetal, Spain, and IGE Hennemann, Germany), one manufacturer of recycling equipment (HEVAC, Spain), one imaging system vendor (Specim, Finland), two RTD performers: a specialist in machine vision and image processing techniques (Robotiker, Spain) and a specialist in illumination and spectral imaging (CSL, Belgium).

The coordinator is Robotiker, a Spanish RTD specialised in machine vision applications and has previously worked on numerous European projects. During the project, the work performed has consisted in the following tasks, briefly described:

- Preliminary tests and users' requirements
The end users provided the developer partners with different types of samples of their usual mixtures to be separated. These materials were studied from two different points of view. On the one hand, the mechanical aspects of the machine were analysed, i.e. size, weight, height and physical nature of the particles to face up to the proper design of the mechanical and pneumatic elements. On the other hand, main resources were devoted to the classification algorithm, which is supposed to use the information contained in the wavelengths out of visible range, to distinguish between elements similar in colour, shapes or size in visible spectrum. This is the case of aluminium and stainless steel. The algorithm has been finally defined and it is in development stage at this moment.

- Design of the system
The different modules that constitute the whole system were designed. The feeding, transportation and separation modules were carefully described and dimensioned. The control algorithm of the whole system was also designed in order to make sure that the proper synchronisation of elements is feasible, which is a key point in the integration.

- Development of the modules
Once the design of the elements had been carried out during the first year, the manufacturing of the elements was finished. The camera was provided by Specim; the illumination module was provided by CSL; the feeder, transportation and separation module was manufactured by Hevac, as well as the electric box that manages the different elements.
- Integration of the modules
Once the modules were available in Robotiker facilities, every module was tested according to its expected requirements, the detected problems were solved and the integration of the modules was accomplished in order to build the whole prototype, and get it work as a whole.
- Exploitation and dissemination issues
The first actions in dissemination and exploitation matters were carried out during the first year, while the main key actions for second year were planned. There is a webpage where all the articles and presence of the project is shown.
- Management and coordination actions
The mandatory documents that gather management issues have been properly fulfilled and sent to the European Commission. Several meetings have been held during this second reporting period and the coordinator has circulated previously the agenda and discussion matters, has moderated the discussion in the meetings and afterwards, has circulated the minutes with the conclusions and planned actions.

The results achieved at the end of the project are satisfactory. It has to be remarked the good results of the classification algorithm, which is capable of separating perfectly several metals in a mixture. Special attention has to be paid to the possibility of classifying aluminium and stainless steel, which at this moment is not achieved in market machines. The problem with these elements is that they are not possible to be separated in the visible range, and therefore, other wavelengths were to be used. This is a major output of the project that enabled a PhD, a patent and many articles.

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