This Bot Might Be The Way To Save Recycling

Recycling is on paper at least, a wonderful thing. Taking waste and converting it into new usable material is generally more efficient than digging up more raw materials. Unfortunately though, sorting this waste material is a labor-intensive process. With China implementing bans on waste imports, suddenly the world is finding it difficult to find anywhere to accept its waste for reprocessing. In an attempt to help solve this problem, MIT’s CSAIL group have developed a recycling robot.

The robot aims to reduce the reliance on human sorters and thus improve the viability of recycling operations. This is achieved through a novel approach of using special actuators that sort by material stiffness and conductivity. The actuators are known as handed shearing auxetics – a type of actuator that expands in width when stretched. By having two of these oppose each other, they can grip a variety of objects without having to worry about orientation or grip strength like conventional rigid grippers. With pressure sensors to determine how much a material squishes, and a capacitive sensor to determine conductivity, it’s possible to sort materials into paper, plastic, and metal bins.

The research paper outlines the development of the gripper in detail. Care was taken to build something that is robust enough to deal with the recycling environment, as well as capable of handling the sorting tasks. There’s a long way to go to take this proof of concept to the commercially viable stage, but it’s a promising start to a difficult resource problem.

MIT’s CSAIL is a hotbed of interesting projects, developing everything from visual microphones to camoflauge for image recognition systems. Video after the break.

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A Fully Automatic Electric Can Crusher

Those of us who recycle our empty drink cans know the annoying storage problem these containers present. For an object with very little metal, a can takes up a huge amount of space, and should you possess a greater than average thirst you can soon end up with a lot of space taken up with stacks of cans. The solution of course is to crush them, and while there are many simple solutions involving hinged blocks of wood or lever systems, this is 2019! We have Machines to that kind of thing for us! [All Things Electro-Mechanical] thinks so anyway, for he has created an automatic can crusher that is a joy to behold.

At its heart is a 120V AC powered linear actuator, which crushes a can held in a welded steel guide. As the can is crushed it drops into a waiting bin, and when the actuator retracts a fresh can drops down from a hopper. Control is handled by a Raspberry Pi, and there are end sensors for the actuator and an optical sensor for the can hopper. As it stands, once the last can is in place the machine stops due to the optical sensor registering no can in the hopper, but no doubt a software change could cause it to execute a single crush cycle after the last can it detects.

This machine would be an ideal candidate for a simple industrial automation system, but however it is controlled it would save its owner from an embarrassing test of strength. Take a look, we’ve posted the two videos showing it in action below the break.

Thanks [Baldpower] for the tip.

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Getting Resourceful to Build A Home CNC

CNC really is a game changer when it comes to machining. If your motor skills or ability to focus aren’t all there, you don’t need to worry – the computer will handle the manual task of machining for you! These builds are popular for DIYers to undertake, as they enable the production of all manner of interesting and advanced parts at home once they’re up and running. However, parts to build a CNC machine can get spendy; [Brenda] decided to take a recycling-based approach to her build instead (Youtube link).

The build uses motion parts from an old silicon wafer fabrication machines, an IKEA table for the work surface, and a scavenged computer to run the show. Control is via the popular LinuxCNC software, a viable candidate for anyone doing a similar build at home. In a neat twist, the holes for hold-downs on the work table were drilled by the machine itself!

Overall it’s a tidy build, broken up over a series of videos that each go into great detail on the work involved.  Interested in your own bargain CNC build? Check out this $400 setup.

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Recycle LCDs into LEDs

We always find it funny when we see ads for modern LED TVs. These TVs don’t use LEDs to show the picture. They are nothing more than LCD screens with LED backlighting instead of cold cathode fluorescent lamps. [Akshaylals] had a few LCD laptop and phone panels that were defunct and decided to recycle them to get to the LEDs within.

Most panels are lit from one or two edges with a bar of LEDs. You only have to peel off some tape and plastic. If you wonder what all those plastic sheets do, see the [Engineer Guy’s] video, below.

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Turn Failed Prints into Office Fun with a Paper Airplane Maker

If you’re anything like us, you feel slightly guilty when you send a job to a printer only to find that twenty pages have printed wrong. Maybe it’s a typo, maybe it’s the dreaded landscape versus portrait issue. Whatever it is, trees died for your mistake, and there’s nothing you can do about it except to recycle the waste. But first, wipe that guilt away by using this one-stroke paper airplane maker to equip the whole office for an epic air battle.

We have to admit, automated paper handling has always fascinated us. The idea that a printer can reliably (sometimes) feed individual sheets of a stack is a testament to good design, and don’t even get us started about automatic paper folding. [Jerry de Vos]’ paper airplane maker doesn’t drive the sheets through the folder — that’s up to the user. But the laser-cut plywood jig does all the dirty work of creating a paper airplane. The sheet is clipped to an arm that pulls the paper through a series of ramps and slots that force the paper gently into the five folds needed for the classic paper dart. It’s fascinating to watch, and even though everyone seems to be using it very gingerly lest the paper tear, we can see how adding some rollers and motors from a scrapped printer could entirely automate the process. Think of the fun a ream of paper could provide around the office then.

Oh, wait…

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Is That A Mars Habitat? A Submarine? A Spaceship? Nope: It’s Home.

[Jan Körbes], an architect living with his daughter in Berlin, specializes in recycling materials. Inspired by discarded grain silos he saw across the Netherlands, he converted one into a micro-home that you would almost expect to see on the surface of mars. The guided tour in the video below give a pretty good feel for the space station feel of the abode.

A lot of the silo house’s design was inspired by [Körbes’] childhood of growing up on boats. It’s exceptionally functional and nearly every nook and cranny of the home can be altered, repurposed, and changed back. For instance: the two pantries on the main floor used to the toilet and shower, but since the silo home is currently set up at ZK/U — Center for Arts and Urbanistics in Berlin — they make use of the facilities there instead.

True to his specialization of creative recycling , a lot of the materials for the house were either donated, or bought at a steep discount due to various reasons. For instance, the windows were a small, unpopular size for most houses but work well here. This led to an evolving design of the house as it was being built, but everything [Körbes] and his daughter need is present inside of fourteen square metres on three floors.

Under the floor on the main level is a bathtub with infrared heating — the cover doubling as the dining table with feet dangling into the tub underneath. The kitchen has a small oven, an old camp stove, and fridge — enough for two people — and the sink uses a foot-activated button so the [Körbes’] use only as much water as they need. A nearby small wood stove with an extendable wood storage basket heats the space.

The house’s electrical (including a solar battery) and water systems are tucked into the basement beside the books, keeping the heavier objects low in such a tall and narrow dwelling. Larger rainwater collection tanks (a hack we’re quite fond of) surrounding the silo house also add ballast in case of storm.

With a two metre ceiling height on the main floor and nearly as much in the bunking quarters upstairs — accessed by a climbing wall, [Körbes] says the space feels much larger than you would expect. Large enough, at least, to host a standing record of a 38-person party. It’s fun to see the ingenuity that goes into tiny living space design. If you missed it, check out these CNC plywood designs for building homes.

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Fresh-Baked Plastic Tiles For All!

Recycling aims to better the planet, but — taken into the hands of the individual — it can be a boon for one’s home by trading trash for building materials. [fokkejongerden], a student at the [Delft University of Technology] in the Netherlands, proposes one solution for all the plastic that passes through one’s dwelling by turning HDPE into tiles.

Collecting several HDPE containers — widely used and easy enough to process at home — [fokkejongerden] cleaned them thoroughly of their previous contents, and then mulched them with a food processor. An aluminium mold of the tile was  then welded together making sure the sides were taller than the height of the tile. A second part was fabricated as a top piece to compress the tile into shape.

After preheating an oven to no hotter than 200 degrees Celsius, they lined the mold with parchment paper and baked the tile until shiny(90-120 minutes). The top piece was weighed down (clamping works too), compressing the tile until it cooled. A heat gun or a clothes iron did the trick to smooth out any rough edges.

Not only does [fokkejongerden]’s tiles give the recycler plenty of artistic freedom for creating their own mosaic floor, the real gem is the adaptable plastic recycling process for home use. For another method, check out this recycled, recycling factory that turns bottles in to rope and more! There’s even the potential for fueling your 3D printer.

[Via Instructables]