When customers are finished with a laser ink cartridge, they often send it back using the return box provided with new cartridges. These cartridges are returned to centralized recycling centers across the country by the truck loads. Used cartridges are removed from their packaging and thrown onto a conveyor belt for manual sorting. As volumes steadily increase, addtional manpower is required to aid in the sorting. Since the recycling center is credited for each cartridge processed and certain cartridges have higher number of recyclable components then others, accurate count of models is highly desired.
PC-based vision system monitors the conveyor for cartridges as they enter into the field of view, at which point it makes note of the cartridges encoder location and its orientation. Using a blob tool, the system pre-classifies cartridges based on their shape using a high-end multi-core processsor for parallelized pattern matching. Subsequent secondary pattern matching is performed in some instances to identify other key markers when subcategorization is required. A local register retains counts of each cartridge identified. Encoder location, orientation, and cartridge ID are passed to a spider robot to pick and place the cartridges into large bins. Multiple instances and orientations of well over one hundred cartridges were trained into the system.