FCC Houston MRF is the first to install a RoBB-AQC
Photo courtesy of Van Dyk Recycling Systems

FCC Houston MRF is the first to install a RoBB-AQC

The robotic sorter supplied by Van Dyk Recycling Solutions is recovering outthrows and prohibitives on the company’s mixed paper quality control line.

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April 29, 2021

FCC Environmental Services added a Bollegraaf RoBB-AQC robotic sorter, supplied by Van Dyk Recycling Solutions, Norwalk, Connecticut, in October of last year to its Houston material recovery facility (MRF). Van Dyk previously supplied the MRF’s sorting system, which was recognized in 2020 by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

When the RoBB-AQC arrived in Houston, FCC Director of Recycling Andrea Rodriguez-Piñero says she was impressed. “When RoBB showed up, it fit perfectly on top of the feed conveyor,” she says. “We have been very happy with the quality of the Bollegraaf equipment that we installed in our Dallas and Houston facilities over the last six years, and this is no exception.”

Supplier Van Dyk and manufacturer Bollegraaf Recycling Solutions, based in the Netherlands, say they paid close attention during the design process to deliver a machine that would be easy to install with little disruption and that would live up to performance expectations.

FCC is using the RoBB-AQC on its mixed paper quality control (QC) line. It has two sorting tasks: recovering outthrows (old corrugated containers, or OCC) and prohibitives (bottles, cans, film). RoBB-AQC helps FCC improve mixed paper quality while recovering high-value aluminum, polyethylene terephthalate and OCC.

Bollegraaf and Van Dyk also designed ergonomic feed hoppers and chutes to maximize RoBB’s accuracy. The artificial intelligence (AI) software, robotic arm and the location and design of the feed hoppers and chutes all play roles in RoBB-AQC’s performance.

Rodriguez-Piñero says, “The feed hoppers are in just the right place to accept RoBB’s throws and are sloped in such a way so that throws don’t bounce out. The chutes flow into the bunkers in such a way that products are directed away from the chute to prevent clogging. You can really tell the equipment has come from an experienced system and retrofit builder.”

Another advantage of RoBB-AQC is that it works with one arm on wide conveyors, allowing it to be installed without making any conveyor changes.

“Safety always influences our decisions at FCC,” Rodriguez-Piñero says. “The RoBB is installed with a total enclosure, so no one can access the arm of the robot while the machine is working. Bollegraaf designs their equipment keeping the safety of the end-user in mind, and this was a very important factor in our decision-making.”

Another important factor in FCC’s decision-making process was the ability to outfit the RoBB-AQC with near-infrared (NIR) recognition technology from Tomra, which is known for its optical sorters. “Our RoBB-AQC is equipped with the latest recognition software from a world-leader in sensor-based sorting,” she says. “The technology that the RoBB-AQC provides is based in NIR, which is very accurate at identifying materials, and that’s very important for us as MRF operators.”

In addition to NIR recognition, RoBB-AQC has multiple sensors for identifying objects, including camera, laser and metal detection.

“The purity of what RoBB recovers is perfect,” Rodriguez-Piñero says. “It picks material and places it into the correct chute at a high accuracy rate. And it is reliable. We can get a consistently high level of performance from RoBB throughout each shift, day after day.”

She also cites Van Dyk’s customer support team as a factor in the purchasing decision. “That level of trust and familiarity is certainly a big factor. Between our two Texas facilities, we have Bollegraaf systems and over 10 Tomra optical sorters installed, and we have a comfort level with their capabilities and with the parts and service support of Van Dyk. Thanks to their knowledgeable training and support team, our operators now know how to maintain this machinery, and our technicians know how to troubleshoot it.”