fabbrica_sostenibileTitle: Integrated Technological Solutions for Zero Waste Recycling of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)

Area: 4 – Factories for Sustainable Production

Call topic:4.2 – De-manufacturing Factory

Coordinating Institute: ITIA – Institute of Industrial Technologies and Automation (Milano)


  • IMATI – Institute for Applied Mathematics and Information Technologies (Milan)
  • IMCB – Institute for Composite and Biomedical Materials (Portici (NA))
  • ICTP – Institute of Chemistry and Technology of Polymers (Pozzuoli (NA))
  • IENI – Institute for Energetics and Interphases (Padova)

Industrial Interest Group:

  • Magneti Marelli (Corbetta (MI)
  • L.O.T. Oriel (Milano)
  • Candy Hoover Group srl (Brugherio (MI)

Abstract: The demand for key metals for the production of high-tech products is constantly growing in Europe, leading to relevant problems both in terms of supply risks and costs. Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing waste stream in EU, with between 3% and 5% yearly increase. Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) in WEEE are called “urban mineral resources” since 25%-40% of their composition is made of valuable metals and key metals have high concentrations in specific components.

Recycling of PCBs is a very challenging task that has not been solved yet: recycling rates for traditional metals are around 30-35% and many critical key-metals are not recycled as well as the non-metal fraction.

This project proposes a new process-chain and a systemic integrated solution towards the automated, zero-waste treatment of PCBs, that is enabled by the development and set-up of new intelligent disassembly, shredding/separation, metal and non-metal fraction recovery technologies.

Ideas and solutions:

  • New knowledge-based selective disassembly technologies for efficient pre-treatment of electronic waste
  • Advanced control of mechanical shredding-separation technologies and systems for key metals rich powders from PCBs
  • Environmentally friendly solutions for the recovery and re-use of the metal and non-metal fractions from PCBs
  • New business models for zero-waste treatment of end-of-life PCBs

Follow up:

Zero Waste PCBs Project has shown the potential for an industrial exploitation of new a new sustainable and integrated demanufacturing process-chain for materials recovery from Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). Starting from the successful results obtained in Sottoprogetto 1, two follow up prototype projects have been proposed, integrating different hardware and software key enabling technologies supporting the implementation of demanufacturing process-chain.

Self-Optimizing Shredding Station for Demanufacturing Plants (ShredIT)

zero-wastepcbsShredIT Project developed a market-attractive prototype of a smart and self-optimizing fine shredding stage in a recycling process-chain for recovering key-materials from end-of-life PCBs. The prototype integrates an advanced tool for shredding stage modelling, optimization and control, in which the user can optimize the shredding process parameters to obtain the desired dimensional distribution of the output particle mixture, as a function of the input mixture. The prototype is composed of an on-line mixture analyser, of a shredding machine and a mathematical algorithm that will quickly provide the best process parameters for hitting a given target output mixture.

In-line automated device for the identification of components and the characterization of materials and value in waste PCBs (PCB-ID)

zero-wastepcbs-1A knowledge-based automatic PCB characterization method, able to recognize the components of the PCBs under treatment and to predict the material composition and value, before the treatment has been proposed. PCB-ID Project developed a prototypal set-up at pilot plant level of a new automatic station for PCB characterization comprising a conveyor belt for PCB transportation, an in-line image acquisition system coupled with enriched knowledge-based characterization and material prediction methods and a proper GUI to easily interact with the user.

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