Robotics to Help Sort and Disassemble Clothing

A group of people in high-vis vests talk around a table with one woman pointing to documents on the table in the QUT ARM HUB Advanced robotics for manufacturing.
A group of people at the QUT ARM Hub workshop discuss robotics for sorting and disassembling clothes
ARM Hub and QUT (Queensland University of Technology)’s Centre for a Waste-free World, hosted a workshop to address the global textile waste problem and are exploring using robotics to sort and disassemble clothes.

QUT researchers are using robotics to help sort and disassemble discarded clothing in an effort to streamline the garment recycling process.

The team brings together expertise in computer vision, artificial intelligence, sensor development, robotic systems, law, business and design.

Currently, effective sorting and decommissioning of garments is a bottleneck in the recycling of unwearable used clothing. The many components that make up a garment, including buttons, zippers and tags are made up of a number of different materials such as metals and plastics. Each component needs to first be removed from the garment before both the garment and it’s components can be recycled correctly. Currently, this is a manual process which can be slow. In addition to removing components, garments also need to be grouped based on the type of fibre they are made from, such as polyester or cotton, so that the correct recycling process can be used.

With people and robotic vision systems working together, the team has developed a pilot disassembly system as well as investigated approaches to tactile sorting of textiles and clothing.

Recent Events

Associate Professor Alice Payne and Dr Frederic Maire stand at a podium to give a speech at the QUT ARM HUB in front of a TV screen showing a robot and person disassembling a garment
Associate Professor Alice Payne and Dr Frederic Maire present a robot and person working together to disassemble a garment at the QUT ARM Hub workshop.

The ARM (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) Hub and QUT’s Centre for a Waste Free World recently hosted a collaborative workshop together with industry, government and non-government organisations to address the global textile waste problem.

The group is embarking on a collaborative journey to find the best possible human-assisted robotic solutions for the complex challenge of textile sorting.

ARM Hub has provided a space to further the collaboration that will be critical to achieving a commercial solution for delivery at scale across the textiles and fashion supply chain.