NRT launches color-based optical sorter with Al
National Recovery Technologies

NRT launches color-based optical sorter with Al

The NRT ColorPlus with Max-AI combines high-resolution color and AI technologies.


Nashville, Tennessee-based National Recovery Technologies (NRT), a subsidiary of Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), Eugene, Oregon, has released the ColorPlus with Max-AI. The ColorPlus with Max-AI integrates artificial intelligence (AI) with NRT’s ColorPlus sorter. According to a news release from NRT, the additional layer of AI creates new sorting capabilities by combining the ColorPlus sorter’s high-volume and high-confidence capabilities with Max-AI’s person-like identification decisions.

The ColorPlus sorter employs a high-resolution RGB color line-scan sensor to identify and sort recyclables by color. Max-AI technology employs a camera and deep-learning-based AI to identify recyclables similar to the way a person does. Max-AI technology, launched by BHS in 2017, is already at work in more than 100 installations, according to NRT. While most of these installations use the technology in collaboration with robotic sorters, the Max-AI VIS (Visual Identification System) is also installed as stand-alone equipment and has already been integrated into the NRT SpydIR with Max-AI.

“From the beginning, we realized Max was a game-changer, not just for robotic sorters but really for the industry on a systemwide level,” says Steve Miller, CEO of BHS. “This is another step forward as we continue to integrate Max into more of our equipment and intelligent system controls.”

Miller adds that NRT optical sorters are good at identifying materials at very high confidence levels by color or material composition, but there are times the sorters require the type of characterization that a person can make. He says incorporating Max-AI with the ColorPlus helps with that issue.

“Cardboard isn’t always brown, and a clear PET (polyethylene terephthalate) container isn’t always desired in the end product,” he says. “The ColorPlus with Max-AI is going to solve a lot of sorting challenges for our customers and we are thrilled to introduce it to them.”

The first ColorPlus with Max-AI has been installed in a European paper recycling facility to purify the fiber stream by removing nonpaper fiber. In this case, Max-AI technology identifies material by type—pizza box, cereal box, old corrugated containers, craft board, book, etc. NRT says the ColorPlus technology is tuned to aggressively detect brown fiber. According to NRT, the combination of proven color detection and the added layer of AI ensures the removal of nonpaper fiber. The technology also has the flexibility to change what material types are targeted.