Enhancing PCR Based Recycled Material Quality with Spectro 4.0 Production Line Inspection

In recent years, recycling has transitioned from being a neglected practice to a mandatory one in many countries worldwide. Whether driven by regulations mandating recycling for consumers and manufacturers or by a growing sustainability trend encouraging eco-conscious product design, recycling has gained significant traction.

This shift has led to the establishment of numerous recycling plants globally, with demand for recycled materials on the rise. Studies indicate that by 2030, production of recycled material is projected to reach approximately 55 million tons, highlighting the growing importance of recycling in today’s society.

Challenges in Quality of Recycled Raw Materials

For recycled raw materials to meet high-quality standards, effective separation and sorting processes must begin at the source, involving consumers in responsible disposal practices. However, these procedures are not always optimized, necessitating recycling plants to invest in advanced sorting, separation, and cleaning equipment to enhance the quality of the final material.

Recycled plasticRecycled plastics

The quality of recycled raw material varies depending on the type of recycling method employed, whether mechanical or chemical, affecting properties such as mechanical strength, viscosity, and color. Consequently, high-quality recycled raw material with specific properties often commands a higher cost than virgin raw material.

Regulatory requirements mandating increased usage of recycled material in products further drive demand for recycled material. While quality tests are routinely conducted in recycling factory laboratories using spectrophotometers, challenges persist in ensuring uniform quality due to random sampling, occasionally resulting in defective material reaching customers.

Quality Testing in Production vs Laboratory Settings

To prevent such incidents, conducting real-time quality checks of the material’s color on the production line, rather than relying on laboratory sampling, is crucial. This enables early detection of any production issues before packaging occurs. However, it’s essential to recognize that on-line testing presents unique challenges distinct from laboratory procedures.

In the lab, achieving a quality color reading requires a smooth, uniform, and shiny surface of the sample. This is typically attained by using grains of recycled material to create an injection-molded sample, which is then tested in a laboratory spectrophotometer. However, this process takes approximately 30 minutes from sample collection to testing.

On the production line, testing involves grains with a rough surface, as injected samples are not feasible. Moreover, the production floor presents challenges for precise instrumentation, including dust, dirt, vibrations, and varying lighting conditions.

SpectroTM – Innovative Spectrophotometer for Online Color Measurement

We have developed SpectroTM, a cutting-edge solution designed for color measurements of recycled material granules directly on the production line. Engineered for durability and accuracy in challenging environments, SpectroTM features a robust structure to ensure reliability. Positioned above the granules, its color measurement probe enables high-frequency measurements every 3-4 seconds, with additional averaging for enhanced precision. Equipped with built-in white light covering the visible spectrum, SpectroTM delivers color measurements unaffected by environmental lighting, in minimal time.

The system compares the color test results to the desired standard (CIELAB color space) on its 7″ color touch screen, issuing alerts if variations exceed predetermined thresholds. Furthermore, SpectroTM features automatic self-calibration between measurements, ensuring continuous operation without interruptions while maintaining measurement accuracy.



Elevating Recycled Material Quality Standards

Utilizing SpectroTM ensures that any deviation from predefined color tolerances triggers an immediate alert, allowing for swift correction of recycled raw material color or disposal of low-quality material. This capability empowers producers of recycled material, particularly post-consumer waste-based PCR, traditionally viewed as lower in quality, to provide customers with high-quality recycled raw material characterized by consistent properties. The premium associated with such superior raw material, coupled with reduced losses due to production failures, translates to a rapid return on investment for businesses.

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