Minghui Zheng, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is the lead investigator on a project that seeks to advance effective human-robot collaboration (HRC) to reduce electronics remanufacturing costs and improve operator safety.
Funded by a $3 million National Science Foundation grant, The Future of Remanufacturing: Human-Robot Collaboration for Disassembly of End-of-Use Products focuses on robot-assisted disassembly to increase productivity, while enhancing job satisfaction and ensuring worker safety.
UB is the lead institution on the grant. In addition to Zheng, the team includes Xiao Liang, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, as a co-principal investigator, and researchers from the University of Florida.
Zheng is exploring the planning and control for collaborative robots (co-robots). According to Zheng, this research will bring co-robots into the disassembly system. “I will focus on robotic planning, learning and control such that the co-robots can collaborate with human operators safely in a complementary and interactive way," says Zheng.
This project in particular examines end-of-use products in remanufacturing. Specifically, the work deals with electronic waste such as used computers and mobile devices.
“Besides the obvious environmental inspiration, such as consumer interest in green products and scarcity of resources, potential profits from salvaging valuable materials and components have motivated the consideration of end-of-use-product recovery and remanufacturing,” says Liang.
Both Zheng and Liang worked with UB’s Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART) on seed grants for the preliminary work associated with this project.