The future is now

Departments - Editor's Focus

July 14, 2014
Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith


One of my favorite movie trilogies from the 1980s is “Back to the Future,” which presented what at the time seemed like some pretty far-fetched ideas of what the year 2015 might look like. Time traveling DeLoreans and hoverboards aside, we have come a long way with technology since those movies first came out, not just as a society, but as an industry.

Robots, remote controls and GPS technology have revolutionized the way we perform many tasks, and manufacturers have found ways to make the jobs of demolition contractors and C&D recyclers more precise, safer and less labor intensive.

The article “No room for error,” which appeared in the January/February 2014 issue, explained how True-Line Coring and Cutting of Tampa used a remote-controlled demolition tool outfitted with a breaker to demolish three 150-foot silos and a 180-foot grain elevator at the Port of Tampa.

In this issue you will read about a grinding operation controlled by a remote that helped create efficiencies during a military housing demolition project in Missouri (See “Feeding frenzy” on p. 42).

You also will read about how robots, developed by ZenRobotics, are sorting wood and other materials from C&D debris in Finland in the article “A new frontier” on p. 24. Technologies like the ZenRobotics Recycler and other advanced sorting equipment are increasing the accuracy and amount of recyclables being captured from the mixed C&D stream, which leads to more end-product value.

And even GPS when used in certain applications like excavation can help improve the precision and speed with which an operator can dig by providing accurate data on the area being worked. “GPS guidance systems can have tolerances as small as two to three centimeters making them extremely accurate compared to relying on the operator’s skill level,” a Wikipedia entry on “GPS in the Earthmoving Industry” states.

Quality and efficiency improvements aren’t the only benefits of these technological advancements. They also reduce the risks. If an operator knows with certainty what is in the ground he is digging or can safely operate a breaker from several yards away, the less likely he is to develop an injury. Similarly, if robots can pick heavy debris off of a conveyor, then employees are saved from the strain it puts on their bodies.

The preceding examples are really just the tip of the iceberg. And manufacturers will continue to develop these technologies and incorporate them in their equipment. I wish I had the ability to take Doc’s Delorean into the future to see what innovations will be used in the demolition and C&D recycling fields 30 years from now.