Based on these processes the worldwide first inverse production line comprised of seven machines was developed and set-up in a recycling plant of the consortium partner Electrocycling GmbH, in Goslar, Germany. The various machines and their functions are: Machine 1 – feeding and singularisation, Machine 2 – dismantling of MPHs, extraction of battery and PCB, Machine 3 – manipulation of PCBs among the machines, loading/unloading actions, Machine 4 – desoldering, cutting out and sorting of electronic components, Machine 5 – measurement of the 2D/3D geometry of PCBs and laser spectroscopic analyses, Machine 6 – fragmentation of residues from MPH dismantling and processed PCBs, Machine 7 – recognition of output of fragmentation machine 6 to identify vibration alerts.
The line of seven machines – called ADIR demonstrator – is able to work in two different operation modes: a) manual loading of PCBs (from MPHs or from servers) and then automatic handling as well as processing with machines 3-5, and subsequently with manual loading/unloading and automatic processing by machines 6 and 7; b) automatic loading, where mobile phones are conveyed and singularised from the feeding station to the dismantling station of machine 2; further processing as in a).
In the measuring campaigns conducted at ECG more than 1000 MPHs and more than 800 PCBs from servers were processed by the ADIR demonstrator. About 26 000 tantalum capacitors were automatically desoldered from PCBs using laser technology. Sorting fractions with the following enriched concentrations given in weight-% were gained: Ta 30-35 %, W 10-15 %, Nd >3 %, Au >0.15 %. With novel hydrometallurgical processes high recovery rates were achieved with this input material: Ta 97.7 %, W 96 %, Nd 96 % Au >98 %.
An economic estimate
based on an assumed three-shift operation with machine hour rates of the
process line in the order of 50 €/h, spans of market prices of raw materials of
the last 3-5 years (min, max), showed that a break-even can be achieved for
throughputs of the ADIR demonstrator of 300 MPHs per hour or 40 PCBs from
servers per hour. For server PCBs this threshold is nearly reached with the
ADIR machines. For MPHs processing times have to be further reduced
The consortium showed
that via geometric measurements and spectroscopic analyses of EOL products,
especially printed circuit boards, a selective dismantling and sorting is
enabled. New return channels to production lines are opened. A first step to a
data base for inverse production was made which is considered to be a key
factor for sustainable recycling. The future vision is to define and implement
a digital recycling pass for all industrial mass products. This pass shall
provide – among others – information about the chemical constituents (elements,
technology metals, …) as well as about procedures for selective dismantling and
Design for recycling
demands are a key issue for future sustainable production:
– to simplify dismantling of complex electronic consumer products such as MPHs, servers, personal computers, electronic appliances, – to enable repair/exchange actions for components, modules, batteries.
This implies demands on
joining technologies deployed for such appliances, their mechanical structures
(radio frequency shieldings, mounting frames, …), composite materials,
adhesives, etc. In future, the EU legislation should also refer to these topics
as stated: recycling pass, design for recycling, share of recycled parts in new
products as well as lifetime, sustainability, repairability (effort for repair
actions, costs of repair pieces, exchange of energy storage media).
recommends to establish frame conditions in the European Union for the
verification of the export stop of EOL-electronics out of the EU. Furthermore,
regulations should be worked out to define stepwise increasing shares of
secondary material from EOL-electronics to be refed into the production chain which
goes beyond the usually considered overall mass fractions and includes
strategically important technology metals as well.