Mechatronics and electronics products End-Of-Life currently constitutes a very complex process which is responsible for serious environmental impacts. Furthermore, as it is currently configured, it does not allow to benefit from the economic opportunities related to the residual value of components and materials that are disposed. Nowadays, the vast majority of electronic waste globally collected is treated in China recurring to incineration and chemical treatments, with limited recycling of manually-extracted components. The reason is that available technologies and business models do not make sustainable the industrial treatment of these products with automated technologies, due to products variability and inhomogeneity on one side, and to the typical cost structures of developed countries on the other. This situation is even more negative when considering that mechatronics and electronics products are composed of key-metals and rare-earths, whose scarcity, due to export limitations introduced by extracting Countries such as China, risks to limit the development of entre strategic high-technology sectors. This project aims at conceiving and building enabling technologies and business models for demanufacturing factories, that should be considered as a constitutive element of the manufacturing system in the frame of a new integrated manufacturing-demanufacturing paradigm. Demanufacturing factories will intelligently and automatically implement optimal End-Of-Life strategies (products remanufacturing, components re-use and materials recycling under a “zero waste” approach), based on the products to be treated and on their conditions.
Project’s expected results are:
- new methodologies and technologies for macro-components disassembly and re-assembly, based on man-machine cooperation in terms of physical intuitive interaction and safe workplace sharing;
- new methodologies and technologies for PCBs micro-components disassembly, testing and remanufacturing based on flexible automation principles;
- new methodologies and technologies for materials recycling (key-metals, rare earths and plastics), characterized by advance automation and control;
- new flexible automation and control at system level, considering, among the other parameters, also energy consumption of processes and infrastructure.
- New demanufacturing frameworks leveraging on the “Digital Factory” paradigm.
- New business models based on End-Of-Life strategy optimization, new supply chain models and reverse logistics.
Benefits that project implementation will offer are:
- Environmental benefits, thanks to:
i) use life maximization through remanufacturing and components selective disassembly to enable re-use, ii) key-metals and rare earths recycling, which reduces the needs of new materials extraction;
- Economical benefits generated by:
i) increased competitiveness of companies already running demanufacturing, due to high-efficiency technologies and methodologies developed in the project,
ii) development of the demanufacturing sector;
iii) increased competitiveness of companies in the mechatronics and electronics products supply chain, due to the availability of scares materials and components from demanufacturing;
iv) growth of a new industry sector of machines and advanced systems for demanufacturing;
- Social benefits connected to:
i) increase of job opportunities thanks to higher competitiveness and to the growth of new industries, enabled by project results;
ii) increased safety and satisfaction of operators, made possible by new man-machine cooperation technologies.
i) creation of new highly specialized competences in a sector that is strategic for the future of manufacturing;
ii) research internationalization thanks to the alignment of the project with the European manufacturing research agenda priorities;
iii) improvement of research and training infrastructures (“learning factory”) by realizing new machines and systems in an integrated pilot plant; iv) independency from extracting countries for key-metals and rare earths sourcing.
Lombardy Region has a strong manufacturing vocation, especially for mechatronics and capital goods. Thus, the above described benefits will have high potential diffusion. The project addresses topics and the development of enabling technologies that are indicated as priorities at European, National and Regional level (Cluster Lombardo Fabbrica Intelligente). It constitutes thus an opportunity to make participants more competitive in applying for European research funds.
Activities will benefit of a pilot plant prototype for the treatment of End-Of-Life mechatronics, installed at ITIA-CNR facilities. This pilot plant was realized in the frame of the previous “convenzione CNR-Regione Lombardia”. I twill offer experimental support to research activities.