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Engineering Materials

Slideshow: Recycled Composites, Plastics Go Commercial

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Ann R. Thryft   2/14/2014 1:05:33 PM
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Thanks for the back and forth discussion. The whole idea of robotic separation only occurred to me during our exchange. Robots already do sorting in material handling facilities, but that's usually easily separated lightweight stuff, not tearing out fibers from a toothbrush. Since the forces and movements would be so different, I wonder if anyone's already working on this?

Elizabeth M
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Elizabeth M   2/13/2014 9:58:34 AM
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Right, I completely see your point, Ann. And yes, it seems like assembly rather than disassembly, as the case may be, are the focus of industrial robots, so technology that is up to this task at the moment as you said does not exist.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Ann R. Thryft   2/13/2014 9:51:01 AM
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No one's actually separating that stuff by hand--but imagining how hard it would be gives an idea of the combination of strength and dexterity required of a robot. Also, pulling things apart involves quite different movements and forces than putting things together, and industrial robots have been constructed to do the latter, not the former (among other jobs). So I'm pretty sure there aren't any that could do this task now.



Elizabeth M
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Elizabeth M   2/13/2014 8:48:29 AM
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Ah, well, that is a cool idea, Ann...I am sure we will see it in the future if there is enough of a need or push for it. And you're right, it seems quite an arduous task and, frankly, a waste of manpower to separate the bristles by hand at this point, although a true environmentalists might point out that it was worth it in terms of recycling. But I'm not sure you'd find anyone up to the task!

Tarafa
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Tarafa   2/13/2014 2:53:20 AM
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It's fantaztic view any help can I do for you Anna I like that so much thank your job

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Ann R. Thryft   2/12/2014 10:57:03 AM
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Yes, that was the idea, Liz. The robots would, of course, have to be capable of both fine dexterity and strength beyond what's possible now AFAIK--all one has to do is imagine separating those bristles by hand.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Elizabeth M   2/12/2014 8:58:16 AM
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That's an interesting idea, Ann...you mean more sophisticated sorting robots so the plastic of the toothbrush could be recycled even if the bristles could not? Interesting idea and with the way innovation is going, not beyond the realm of possibility.

Trenth
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Re: Reclaiming plastics
Trenth   2/12/2014 12:52:10 AM
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People seem to find it hard to believe it can provide all the long haul transportation fuels, chemical feedstock, and backup fuels for solar and wind.  I think they don't realize that everything we harvest eventually get thrown out, not even worth recycling, but it still has most of it;cs chemical energy.  

Humans have always had trouble cleaning up their messes.

"Waste not want not" is the solution to our energy "storage" problem.   

The cost should not be a concern. It's cheaper to make energy and fuel than it is to dump it, pollute the environment, and need fossils to fill the gap. There is no "away" to throw things anymore.

I also see a failure to agree on the fuels we want from our wastes. Ethanol and town gas are not nearly as valuable in a Solar and wind renewable world as oil, diesel and gasoline.  

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Ann R. Thryft   2/11/2014 10:32:31 AM
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I was surprised about the toothbrush, too. As long as we need any brush with a handle and bristles, there's a need for two different materials, whether those are plastic, or wood (handle) plus a fibrous material (bristles). It's in the nature of the design because of the job to be done. So instead of trying to change the design, I wonder if the sorting problem couldn't be solved with more sophisticated robots.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Reclaiming carbon fibers
Elizabeth M   2/11/2014 6:13:09 AM
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I never even thought about toothbrush waste but that is yet another example of a use of plastic where they could be another, better alternative. I can't think of one at the moment, though! Definitely an area ripe for innovation.

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