With the iDeaR Project, We Are Solving the Challenge of Recovering Valuable Materials From Electronic Waste
In addition to shorter lifespans and increasing global demand for electronic devices, products are simultaneously becoming more complex and customized. They contain a wider range of materials and there is an almost unmanageable number of variants. In addition, the dismantling of used goods is characterized by many uncertainties. For example, screws may be rusted, screw heads worn, components deformed and damaged, or even missing entirely. Small and compact electronic devices in particular are also usually not designed for non-destructive disassembly. Their assemblies are made of composite materials and are connected to each other by screws, levers, clips or adhesives in such a way that they are difficult to separate.
Recovering materials from electronic equipment is not only environmentally friendly, but also makes economic sense. Electronic components (circuit boards, contacts, switches) contain precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium. So-called rare earths can be found in magnets, batteries or displays. Recycling is particularly worthwhile here, because rare earths are available in sufficient quantities worldwide, but often only in small amounts. This makes mining difficult and the metals expensive. However, they are indispensable for the manufacture of many high-tech products. Lithium is an important component of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in many electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops. Copper and aluminum are also commonly used in electronic devices, for example in cables and connectors or in heat sinks and frames. In almost all cases, recycling metals requires fundamentally less energy compared to mining and processing primary raw materials.
So recovering all these materials not only reduces the environmental impact of electronic scrap, but also reduces the environmental impact of raw material mining and provides a valuable source of raw materials for new products.
The better the individual materials are separated from each other during disassembly, the higher the quality of their further use as secondary raw materials and the lower the energy required for the respective recycling process. Currently, there are only a few specialized systems that can automatically dismantle a very limited number of products with a high engineering effort.
This is exactly where our project iDeaR comes in. In the iDeaR project, we are developing solutions for the intelligent disassembly of electronic devices for remanufacturing and recycling. We are developing processes for orderly, formal recycling using state-of-the-art automation technologies, where valuable materials can be efficiently recovered and reused, ensuring a more sustainable future for the electronics industry.