Human-Robot collaboration improving MW and PC tower handling for their dismantling
Microwave ovens and computer towers are the two cases studied at Indumetal Recycling within the HR-Recycler project that seeks both the best process technique and risk prevention of potential injuries in the disassembly and decontamination processes of PC towers, microwave ovens, emergency lamps and LED and LCD screens.
Image 1. Dismantled microwave oven
Removing the condenser from a microwave oven before carrying out any device management operation is a legal obligation, given that they contain highly toxic substances. Due to the variety of microwave oven designs on the market, this extraction is currently done exclusively by hand. To perform this disassembly operation quickly and effectively, the operator needs to have an extensive experience.
In order to remove the housing that covers the microwave, it is usually sufficient to unscrew a limited number of elements. However, once the housing is unscrewed, it is not an easy task to access the interior of the oven, and therefore, help of a pick or a lever to remove it is needed.
Image 2. Dismantled PC tower
In the case of PC towers, it is mandatory to remove the battery that can be found inside as well as any PCB with a bigger size than ten-centimeter square. To access to these components, it is necessary to remove the external metallic housing. Just like the microwave ovens, there is a wide variety of PC tower designs, so this manipulation is currently done also manually.
Additionally, although it is not compulsory, Indumetal’s operator removes the hard drive and the disk from PC towers, since these components present high value materials that can be recovered if they are treated separately. .
In these types of processes, the operator must move the equipment repeatedly to be able to access to the inner components. Robots can collaborate in this heavier and more dangerous task, reducing repetitive strain and accidental injuries in humans. However, these maneuvers demonstrate that the experience and knowledge of the operator are key in detecting the different components of WEEE. The dismantling processes currently studied in HR-Recycler, are clear examples where a hybridization between human and mechanical work of a robot would offer numerous benefits.