Remanufacturing is the process of returning a used product to at least the same condition as the original product. Remanufacturing is sustainable manufacturing, helping to save resources (raw materials, energy, water, etc.), reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the need for landfill space. Remanufacturing is part of a circular economy. Disassembly is the first operation in remanufacturing. How disassembly is undertaken can affect the efficiency and capability of remanufacturing. Disassembly is labour intensive and difficult to automate due to variabilities in the condition of the product at the end of its service life. Efforts have been spent on introducing intelligent robots in disassembly to make remanufacturing ‘smarter’. Like other applications of Industry 4.0 automation technologies, this should lead to increased productivity, reduced failure rate, more resource-efficient operations and improved product quality and working environment.
This seminar will cover research conducted as part of the 5-year Autonomous Remanufacturing (AutoReman) research programme funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council at the University of Birmingham. In addition to fundamental research into disassembly science, the work has also involved developing and using tools and techniques typical of those in the era of the fourth industrial revolution to allow disassembly to be reliably performed by machines.
AutoReman has produced results relevant to researchers in robotic assembly and disassembly, and in remanufacturing and recycling. The control strategies developed for disassembly robots to adapt to uncertainties are usable in other robotic applications including assembly. The proposed autonomous disassembly techniques can be employed for efficient recycling as well as remanufacturing. Without a doubt, AutoReman has taken the first steps to help usher remanufacturing into the digital age.