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29/04/2020

COMAU and new robotics tools for WEEE scenarios

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Comau explains the approach used on tools selection for WEEE scenarios.

Comau is working on different aspect of the WEEE management related to two main scenarios of the recycling process: the first related to classification of the part to be processed and the second to the disassembling phase in which the part are dismantled and the different materials and components are collected and selected for the final sorting phase.

From the robotics point view this two scenarios present some similarity about the main challenges to be solved even if some different approach and peculiar solutions can be adopted. In general the wide range of parts that can be managed is be very different in terms of:
– weight (from less than 1 kg up to 20 kg) ,
– shape (sharp or smooth edges)
– dimensions (from few cm up to 1 meter o more)
– materials (plastics, metals, glasses, etc)
So one the main requirement is the versatility of the robotics system about the tools to be adopted.

For the classification case an appropriate sensor base platform will be able to detect the parts in the bin but anyway a flexible gripper for the end effector able to handle this wide variety of objects is needed. After a benchmarking analysis on the possible solutions that meet these requirements available in the market, the first tests carried out have been executed with a vacuum grippers, called Kenos and manufactured by Piab (https://www.piab.com/en-us/products/kenos-vacuum-gripping-systems/). It has been designed and optimized to be used in various application and represents a flexible tool for the handling manipulation of several products with different shapes, dimensions and compactness.

The first results were very positive: the system has been able to handle all the parts considered as test case in the project (LCD, PC Tower, Emergency lamps, Microwaves oven) with an easy orientation of the gripper and a smart adaptation to the different parts in random surface positions.

In disassembling phase similar problem needs to be faced but in this case the use of a collaborative platform and a small payload robot introduce some issues to take into account as the safe management of interaction with operators as well as the high variety of tool to be used for the dismounting of the parts: also in this case in preliminary test has been adopted the novel KENOS vacuum gripper by PIAB, certified as collaborative and the PLUTO automatic screwdriver by KOLVER (https://kolver.it/prodotti-elenco/4-Serie-PLUTO-MITO-NATO) integrated in a customized solution mounted directly on the robot flange.

The preliminary test conducted on the emergency lamp case showed very good result in terms of reliability and reconfigurability of the system related to the different application that can be executed. Next steps to be performed can take in consideration the use of an appropriate tool changer useful in order to enhance the potentiality of the system and cover also possible task as wire cutting or handling of small objects inside the parts.
The optimization of the current solutions, the adoption of other tools and related tool changer will be face during the rest of the project.