Research Position on Robotic Sorting for Metal Recycling

As KU Leuven research group on Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) of the Department of Mechanical Engineering we have acquired significant experience in re- and demanufacturing, which includes reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling of various waste streams and the dismantling of products into their components or composing materials. In addition, the ACRO research group has acquired substantial experience in the field of industrial automation, vision and robotics. Through the close cooperation of both research groups we exploit this knowledge to support machine builders in the development of the next generation of processes for the recycling sector. Hence, we support recycling companies in the transition towards a more circular economy.

Within the European EIT KIC Raw Materials Upscaling project AUSOM (AUtomatic SOrting of mixed scrap Metals) KU Leuven will collaborate with the companies Redwave (AU), Spectral Industries (NL) and Galloo (BE) and the research institute Swerim (SW) to develop an automatic sorting technology for metal alloys based on laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). KU Leuven will contribute to four main tasks: robotic picking, (deep learning) computer vision, lifecycle costing and impact assessment, and an educational component. In the framework of this project you will be responsible for conceiving innovative robotic picking systems that can sort the different alloys of metal scrap, such as different aluminium and stainless steel alloys, manganese, copper, brass and lead. A major challenge concerns the high variation in the geometries of scrap metal and the velocity at which gripping systems need to operate for metal sorting to be economically viable. You will, therefore, develop innovative gripping solutions that can handle the high variation in geometries and allow the fast grasping of scrap metal. For these developments, the applicability will be explored of solutions that are either commercially available or developed in prior research, as well as novel conceptual ideas. In addition, you will investigate opportunities to increase the speed of grasping by conceiving and optimizing grasp planning algorithms. One of the identified opportunities for increasing the robustness and speed of grasping is to adopt machine learning principles to improve the grasp planning and the throwing of objects based on information acquired from the computer vision and LIBS sensor, such as alloy type, information on alloy densities and the geometry of the object to be sorted.

You will be involved in the development of the entire system and the integration of the different system components throughout the project. This will be performed in close cooperation with colleagues working on (deep learning) computer vision and lifecycle costing and impact analysis, as well as with an internationally renowned machine builder, sensor builder and recycling company. In addition, you will investigate opportunities to combine robotic sorting with innovative computer vision, LIBs and other sorting technologies. Throughout the project, conceptual approaches will be combined with experimental validation of innovative automated processes on lab scale and at the scale of an industrial pilot.


Description of the vacancyYou are part of a multidisciplinary research group working on the topic of Life Cycle Engineering (LCE) and automation, vision and robotics (ACRO) under the supervision of Dr. Jef Peeters, Prof. Karel Kellens, Prof. Wim Dewulf and Prof. Joost Duflou.

You follow up on literature, patents, company releases, conferences, etc. and use the obtained information to determine the state of the art and to identify opportunities for novel contributions.

You are responsible for the development and evaluation of innovative gripper designs and grasping algorithms and contribute to organizing and performing validation experiments.

You contribute to the writing of project proposals and the guiding of Master students with their thesis work.

You report to your supervisors and to industrial partners during project meetings and at international conferences.

We offer you the opportunity to publish in international scientific journals and to work towards writing a PhD dissertation.


You hold a Master’s in Science, Engineering, or an equivalent degree which you obtained with a high GPA

You like to work in a multidisciplinary team of international researchers and show willingness to learn/explore innovative technologies and techniques.

You have a creative mindset, take initiative, and are not afraid to address innovative ideas and new opportunities.

You are fluent in English.


We offer a varied and challenging job in close cooperation with industry, combined with an attractive salary package.

We offer a research position in a stimulating and multi-disciplinary environment and a strong industrial network.

We provide the opportunity to work towards obtaining a PhD degree within an international network (optional).


For more information please contact Prof. Dr. Jef Peeters, email: or Prof. Dr. Karel Kellens, email:

You can apply for this job no later than May 30, 2020 via the online application tool
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