A flexible belt sorting system, which will serve as a prototype and function demonstrator, is currently being developed at Fraunhofer IOSB. The system has a throughput of approximately 30 tons per second. Just two persons are needed to load and unload the system.
The demonstrator system with control station and conveyor belt currently fills two 20-foot containers. The aim is to develop a compact sensor system that can be integrated into the conveyor system at the processing plant.
The plastic waste passes the camera at a speed of two to three meters per second and the system needs just 35 milliseconds to decide whether or not the plastic flake should be blown out. The plastic flakes travel almost 10 centimeters in this period. For this reason the decision »Blow out: yes/no« must be made just-in-time. The data from all of the sensors must be considered in the decision – researchers call this sensor data fusion. For the first time, it is now possible to recycle black plastics on an industrial scale thanks to the clean separation of plastics according to type or color and increased economic efficiency.
The following is an animation of the material sorting process: