Intelligent Disassembly of Electronics for Remanufacturing and Recycling (iDeaR Project)

We Make the Use of Electrical and Electronic Devices Sustainable Through Recycling

Technological progress is causing electrical and electronic appliances to age rapidly. The short lifespan of often only a few months or years leads on the one hand to a constantly growing demand for finite raw materials and on the other hand to a growing mountain of electronic waste.

This is a global problem. In 2019, nearly 54 million tons of e-waste were generated worldwide. By 2030, annual global e-waste production could already rise to 74 million tons. Only a fraction of all electrical equipment is recycled. A large proportion - over 80 percent - of e-waste ends up in landfills or incineration. And with it the materials it contains: valuable precious metals or rare earths go unused. Hazardous chemicals and pollutants can end up in the environment.

To a small extent, e-waste is dismantled by hand. However, high costs and the increasing shortage of labor make this increasingly unattractive.

In the iDeaR project, we are developing solutions for the efficient dismantling of electrical equipment and for the reprocessing and recycling of materials. We want to ensure that raw materials are not wasted and that valuable resources are kept in circulation for longer. This creates a circular economy, which is elementary for sustainable consumption. 

© LuchschenF, Adobestock

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.

We Improve the Recycling Process of Electrical Equipment and Increase the Efficiency, Precision and Safety of Disassembly Operations

We combine materials science, metrology, robotics and artificial intelligence into an intelligent system for automated and non-destructive disassembly processes - the basis for a certifiable and closed-loop waste management system.

  • Automated identification of assemblies using high-precision measuring technology: Optical measuring technology helps to detect labels or markings and sort different components. Spectral metrology can be used to identify individual materials or plastics. In combination with machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence, it is possible to recognize and classify materials and components based on sensor data and spectral data.
  • Automated disassembly using robotics: the high precision and speed of robotic systems during disassembly leads to better recovery of materials and components. Compared to conventional disassembly methods, robotic, streamlined processes for material extraction and recovery can save time, money and resources. Our focus is on reducing the engineering effort required to program the robots.
  • Business models, ecosystems and supply chains: We look at the lifecycle of e-waste from collection to recycling to improve the transparency of e-waste streams. We are also investigating the energy aspects of reycling to make the most efficient energy use of residual materials that cannot be reused in new products.

Our iDear project is aligned with the UN's sustainability goals. In particular, our research fulfills Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Expected Project Outcomes

  • Prototype system for the automated dismantling of WEEE, integrating all our technological developments. This will include a combination of manual and automated dismantling processes.

Technologies and Projects We Build On:


Next Generation Urban Mining (ADIR Project)

Automated Disassembly, Separation and Recovery of Valuable Materials from Electronic Equipment


Optical Metrology

Project Profile

Project Title

"iDeaR: Intelligent disassembly of electronics for remanufacturing and recycling"


Recycling process, resource recovery, circular economy, electronics industry, recycling strategy, closed raw material loops, sustainability, sustainable value creation