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Start-up of the Week: AMP Robotics, AI and a waste-free world

IFM_AMP Robotics

United States-based AMP Robotics, which is creating robotic systems to automatically sort recyclable material, on May 2023, announced extending its Series C funding round to USD 99 million, as Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund invested its capital into the start-up.

In today’s episode of the ‘Start-up of the Week,’ International Finance will discuss AMP Robotics and its game-changing role towards creating “a world without waste.”

Reimagining The Word ‘Recycle’

Headquartered in Colorado, with a strong presence in the North American and European markets, AMP builds and deploys technology that solves many of the challenges around recycling industrial waste, apart from shifting the economics of the industry to make it more efficient, cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable.

AMP, led by Matanya Horowitz, has a diverse team of environmentalists, engineers, and other professionals, who share a passion for the promise technology holds to modernize the way the venture recycles products.

Since its inception in 2015, AMP has become a leader in the ‘evolution of recycling,’ as through the usage of cutting-edge technology, the venture has created a business model for the waste management industry, based on flexibility, resource efficiency, and transparency.

How Do They Do It?

AMP’s AI platform, ‘AMP Neuron’, uses computer vision to recognize patterns of specific recyclable materials within a complex waste stream. The tool distinguishes different plastic polymers, types of paper, metal containers, and multi-layered packages to characterize what’s in the recycling stream and what needs to be sorted during different process stages. The neuron then guides robots to sort and recover the materials as per the recyclable/contaminated levels.

Powered by machine learning, Neuron can recognize over 70 billion objects annually from field installations. AMP continuously upgrades this particular skill, based on daily operational experiences, to keep its solutions future-proof.

Apart from ‘AMP Neuron,’ you have ‘AMP Vision,’ a modular computer vision system that understands the AMP clients’ material flow from inbound processing to bale QC to the end of the line.

The client businesses can monitor their waste treatment lines on a real-time basis and take proactive action, create isolated waste audits and take high-resolution images of their material stream, all using the ‘AMP Vision.’

Next comes ‘AMP Cortex,’ which is a high-speed robotic sorting system guided by AMP’s AI, where the venture’s robots sort, pick, and place materials to achieve up to 99% accuracy and up to 80 picks per minute. The whole solution reduces time and money spent on high-turnover positions, apart from increasing facility safety and reducing training overhead, capturing more high-value material and most importantly decreasing contaminations during waste treatment.

AMP also has an AI-powered film contamination removal tool, the first such innovation in the waste treatment industry. The tool, named ‘AMP Vortex,’ keeps tangling film out of downstream equipment and increases the sorting efficiency and safety of the clients’ waste treatment lines, apart from automating high-volume capture of film to allow the sorters to focus on recovering key commodities.

Last but not least, ‘AMP Clarity,’ a web-based data portal provides real-time material characterization and performance measurement throughout key process stages of the waste sorting operations.

AMP’s Market Impact

AMP is helping the plastics industry to boost its waste recovery and limit contamination, apart from ensuring a higher volume of high-quality feedstock for new products and packaging. AMP’s solutions are helping the good packaging industry and its stakeholders to scale an unrivalled detection and recovery of recyclables. The technology is helping producer initiatives to increase recycling rates and create new value streams for recyclables to aid their pursuit of recycled content goals.

Take United States-based Evergreen as a case study, which uses AMP Cortex to sort green and clear PET bottles.

“With our AI-guided robots, Evergreen increased purity and consistency and doubled its PET recovery rate at its Ohio facility, generating more high-quality recycled plastic to meet its bottle-to-bottle recycling goals,” AMP stated.

Let’s shift the focus to the metal industry, where the ‘AMP Cortex’ is using its high-speed and intelligent robotics system to recover and sort out aluminium, aerosol cans, pie tins, pet food containers, nonferrous food containers and foil can pick at a much rapid and consistent pace, while preventing contamination and accelerating high-purity sorting of metals.

Virginia-based RDS is using ‘AMP Cortex’ to sort PET, HDPE, plastic film, cups, and metals at one of its Roanoke facilities. The company has been capturing more high-value material with AI and automation.

AMP’s solutions are making a mark in the construction sector too. Using AMP Cortex’s intelligent robotics and the AI platform, the venture’s solution helps its clients to pick and process lighter and smaller objects like wood, metal, drywall, and plastics, recover fines and other small objects with precision and consistency, and capture new opportunities for wood and other fractions for resale.

Benkei and Musashi, two high-payload and high-throughput sorting robots from Ryohshin and AMP Robotics, are leaving their marks in Japan’s construction and demolition recycling facilities.

The Road Ahead

On May 1, AMP unveiled its new AI-enabled automated sorted solutions and integrated facility offerings. A day after, the venture found a mention in Fast Company’s ‘World Changing Ideas Awards 2023.’ AMP has found itself in the ‘2023 Global Cleantech 100 Company’ list.

AMP boss Horowitz told TechCrunch that landfilled plastics represent significant losses to his country’s economy, a statement which can be backed by the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) 2019 report. The report found a loss figure of around USD 7.2 billion for that year. Of the estimated 44 million metric tons of plastic waste managed domestically in 2019, approximately 86% was landfilled, 9% was combusted and 5% was recycled, the study stated further.

Horowitz further estimated that the recovery of US plastic packaging and food-service plastic alone could represent a pool of earnings of USD 2 billion to 4 billion per year. AMP’s fleet of around 275 robots is now deployed in over 100 waste treatment centres.

“We have a number of larger opportunities in front of us, from opportunities in Europe and across the world, to large, fleet-wide deployments of robots and deployment of fully automated sorting facilities. The capital helps us build the technologies and team to support these opportunities,” Horowitz concluded.

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