Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Molg

Microfactories revolutionise e-waste recycling


The robotic system quickly disassembles old electronics so they can be repurposed

Spotted: The growth in e-waste is a dark side of the technology boom. According to the UN, a record 62 million tonnes of e-waste was produced in 2022 and less than a quarter of that was recycled.

Startup Molg is working to change this by developing a state-of-the-art microfactory for disassembling electronics. Traditional e-waste recovery tends to rely on shredding components and using chemicals to extract only the materials with the highest worth. Molg, in contrast, keeps usable materials in their original form to speed up material reuse.

Each factory is a cube just two metres on each side. It includes multiple robotic arms and a workspace capable of processing electronics up to the size of a rackmount server. The process is quick and a server can be processed to its individual components in less than five minutes. Molg uses Autodesk Fusion, which combines computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to tell the factory what to take apart and how. The Molg team is creating a catalogue of assembly patterns that encompass most real-world products and the microfactory can then use this to identify how to disassemble each product.

The microfactory will allow organisations to save energy (and CO2) by recycling on-site, rather than transporting heavy e-waste to recycling centres. It is conceivable that, in the future, all electronics manufacturers and data centres could be equipped with their own microfactory.

Molg recently announced a collaboration with Sims Lifecycle Services to automate the repurposing of Open Compute Project data centre materials, which will see both companies scale the recycling of e-waste.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



Download PDF